SHERMAN OAKS—On Thursday, July 23, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey launched a pet summer safety campaign, reminding the public not to leave pets in hot cars. Nomo, a 13-year-old a white Labrador spokesdog, accompanied Lacey at the event.

Leaving pets in hot cars can be dangerous. Photo by Christopher Michel.
Leaving pets in hot cars can be dangerous. Photo by Christopher Michel.

Dogs and cats cannot regulate their heat like humans, and are more vulnerable to higher temperatures. Dogs and cats sweat minimally through their paw pads, but primarily rely on panting to cool themselves. In a locked car, they don’t receive enough fresh air to cool down.

In the summer heat, parked cars can reach internal temperatures of over 120 degrees, even if they’re left in the shade or have the windows cracked open.

“Exposure to that kind of heat can cause pets to have a heat stroke, seizures, convulsions or brain damage,” Lacey told NBC Los Angeles. According to the District Attorney’s office, “California Penal Code section 597.7 makes it a crime to leave a pet unattended in a vehicle under any condition that could cause harm to the animal.” First-time offenders can be fined $100. Serial offenders can be fined up to $500, or face six months in jail. Owners may also be indicted on misdemeanor or felony charges of animal cruelty.

To protect pets in the summer heat, security guards at some malls—including 180 guards at seven Westfield centers—have been trained to find and rescue animals in distress.

Members of the public are also encouraged to look out for animals locked in cars. Citizens are not, encouraged to attempt rescue themselves. Breaking into a car, even to rescue an animal, is illegal for anyone who is not a peace officer, humane officer or animal control officer.

If you see an animal in a hot car, please contact mall security or the police for assistance.