Fine up for dogs in hot cars

Leaving you pet in the car without proper ventilation will soon cost you $500 from the city of Coquitlam. - METRO CREATIVE
Leaving you pet in the car without proper ventilation will soon cost you $500 from the city of Coquitlam.
— image credit: METRO CREATIVE

Leaving your pet in your car while you're running errands in Coquitlam will soon cost you dearly.

On Monday, council gave three readings to change the city's animal care and control bylaw by hiking the penalty for pets in confined spaces from $150 to $500.

The move comes as other Lower Mainland municipalities have also increased their fines: This month, Surrey council brought its charge up to $500 as well, the maximum amount allowed under the bylaw ticketing system.

This year alone, Coquitlam bylaw officers have logged 51 complaints and issued 13 violation tickets to owners who have left their animals in hot cars.

Port Coquitlam and Port Moody have no specific fines for leaving pets in vehicles during hot days but animals that are deemed to be "suffering" can be seized by police and turned over to the BC SPCA, a Port Moody city spokesperson said.

Shawn Eccles, the SPCA's manager of cruelty investigations, said it took 228 complaints last month around B.C. — including five in the Tri-Cities — about pooches stuck in hot cars. And, so far this month, the SPCA has received 211 complaints province-wide, including nine locally.

Eccles said a $500 municipal fine like the one proposed in Coquitlam is significant "but there has to be an ongoing enforcement" by the city to ensure the animals are safe and the owners are reprimanded.

He cited a recent case in the Kootenays where an owner left his dog in the hot car and, when he returned, the animal was so distressed that it needed professional help; it died later at the veterinarian's clinic. An SPCA investigation is pending.

"It doesn't matter how much media attention there is, there are some people out there who still believe it's OK to leave a dog in a hot car," said Eccles, adding the temperature inside a car can be as much as 20 C hotter than outside.

Besides ventilation, Eccles said there are a number of factors when considering if a pet is safe in a vehicle. These include the humidity on the day as well as the colour of the vehicle's exterior and interior, the age and breed of the animal, and the colour and type of its coat.

Eccles said a post-mortem of a dog that has died as a result of heat exposure in a car often shows the internal organs are hard. "That means they've cooked," he said.

His advice to pet owners is simple: "Just leave your animals at home. Don't take the risk."

Fourth and final reading of Coquitlam's animal bylaw change is expected within the next few weeks.


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