'Paws' before leaving Fido in the car

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By Marie E. Matyjaszek

As I constantly pull objects out of my puppy’s mouth, it’s a safe bet to say I think about dogs a lot  And sadly, I’ve seen several reports of people  (including K-9 officers) leaving animals in cars, causing the animal’s death. 

We all know leaving your child in a hot car brings criminal charges quickly, and steep ones at that (as it should). Laws are in place to govern when the unthinkable happens to children as a result of being left behind, and lawmakers in Michigan are trying to better protect animals too.

Proposed Michigan Senate Bill No. 930(2)(H), introduced May 3, 2016, provides that “An owner, possessor, or person having the charge or custody of an animal shall not….leave or confine an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of the animal, including, but not limited to, heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death of the animal.”

Under the proposed legislation, if a person violates the law, he or she would be guilty of a misdemeanor, which carries a 45-day imprisonment term or a fine of not more than $350, or both; the second offense is a misdemeanor punishable by 90 days in the slammer or a fine up to $500, or both. 

If the animal suffers “serious physical harm,” the violator is guilty of a misdemeanor, imprisonment of up to one year, a fine up to $1,000, or both.

Last, if the animal dies as a result, the proposed law would make that crime a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000, or both.

If this bill makes its way to the Governor’s desk, it will provide prosecutors with stronger consequences for those violating the law than what are presently in place.  It will call out this specific behavior as a crime, hopefully giving pet owners pause (or “paws”) when they take Fido or Muffin out for a Sunday ride and decide to stop at the local hardware store on the way.

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The author is a family law attorney who can be reached at matyjasz@hotmail.com.
 

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