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Bills would criminalize leaving dogs in hot cars

Dog sticking its head out the window of a car
Andrew Pons

As temperatures rise, lawmakers in Lansing want to make sure people aren’t leaving their animals in their cars.

Legislation passed a state Senate committee Thursday. It would make it a crime to leave your animal in the car in harmful conditions.

That includes, but is 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.”

If the animal dies, the punishment would be a felony with up to five years of prison time, otherwise it would be a misdemeanor.

State Senator Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, is a bill sponsor. He said across the country hundreds of dogs die every year because they were left in cars.

“Legislation like this, not just puts a penalty out there but also creates education,” he said. “I think the average person doesn’t have an understanding of how dangerous this is.”

According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, it can only take 10 minutes for the inside of a car to hit temps above 100. Even if the temperature outside is in the 80s. 

“I just bought a Chevy Cruise from my biggest employer General Motors, and I noticed now when you shut the car off it warns you to check the backseat,” said bill sponsor Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “So that’s how big the problem is.”

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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