Please, think twice about bringing your four legged friend on the road with you

On an unusually hot San Francisco day, I came across a dog, trapped in a car and whining in the parking lot of a Target in Daly City, Calif. The owner left no windows down and no water for the dog to drink.

After waiting for more than 20 minutes, hoping the owner was just running in, I left disappointed, wishing I had known the potential legal consequences of the owner’s actions before running into this situation. People who are cruel to animals deserve to be convicted and we are responsible for making sure they get it.

Sadly, this happens too often and we are all partially to blame.

In today’s world, people want to bring their pets everywhere they go: to the mall, grocery store or even a doctor’s appointment. Because animals are not permitted everywhere that we are, they often get left behind in the car, anxiously waiting for their owner to return.

The reality of wanting your furry little companion along for the ride may just lead you to unknowingly commit a crime.

There are more than 50 laws in California alone that deal with the mistreatment of animals. Penal code 597.7, enacted in 2006, is one that everyone should be familiar with. It prohibits leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle under any conditions that could endanger their health.

All U.S. states have laws prohibiting animal cruelty and, excluding South Dakota, contain felony provisions. However, a law is only as good as its enforcement. This is why animals rely on humans to protect them by reporting animal abuse.

According to the Humane Society, most cases of animal cruelty go unreported, leaving the issue unrecognized.

I am guilty of not reporting the dog I saw in the car that day. I went home and thought about it all day, wishing that I had done something, but in that moment I didn’t think there was much I could do to make a difference.

The first conviction of the penal code warrants a maximum fine of $100. Although, if the unattended animal suffers a “great bodily injury,” its owner can be confronted with six months in county jail and a fine up to $500.

Penal code 597.7 also states that an officer has every right to rescue an animal from the vehicle, even if this means breaking into the car. So, if you are bummed about that $100 to $500 fine you are about to receive, you better start saving for a new window as well.

In a 2007 Humane Society study, it was found that the most common media-reported animal cruelty cases involved dogs (64.5 percent), particularly pit bulls. People tend to stereotype pit bulls as mean, aggressive animals. Perhaps this is because of the way that humans treat them. The abused dogs are desperate and look for a way to defend themselves from their abusive owners.

Animal cruelty isn’t strictly defined as abusing an animal. Simply failing to take proper care of one is also considered animal abuse.

The Humane Society defines neglect as not giving an animal the appropriate food, water, shelter or vet care. Animals who die of neglect can suffer just as much as animals who are harmed on purpose.

It doesn’t matter whether the animal is a dog, cat, horse or bird. Lack of responsibility for one’s pet is animal cruelty no matter how you look at it, and we need to start speaking up and making a change. This behavior cannot go unrecognized any longer, and the next time I witness animal cruelty I don’t want to be left too unsure to act.

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  • I’ve called ACC several times to report dogs left in cars in SF and they’ve always come out quickly. Is there a reason to think that wouldn’t have happened in Daly City if you had called the animal care agency there?