DENVER (KDVR) — As Colorado suffers sweltering heat this weekend, people are reminded to protect themselves and their pets from the dangerous temperatures. But what if a pet you find suffering in the heat isn’t your own?
Colorado law addresses pets left in hot vehicles
In Colorado, there’s a law that protects people who take extraordinary measures to rescue dogs or cats (or humans) from the dangerous heat of a locked vehicle. But there are stipulations, and before you do anything, you’re required to contact the authorities first — among other measures.
Here’s what the law says: “A person is immune from civil and criminal liability for property damage resulting from his or her forcible entry into a locked vehicle” to rescue an animal, but only under these conditions:
- the vehicle is not a law enforcement vehicle
- an at-risk person or animal is present in the vehicle
- the person rendering assistance has a reasonable belief that the at-risk person or animal is in imminent danger of death or suffering serious bodily injury
- the person determines that the vehicle is locked and that forcible entry is necessary
- the person makes a reasonable effort to locate the owner or operator of the vehicle and documents the color, make, model, license plate number, and location of the vehicle
- the person contacts a local law enforcement agency, the fire department, animal control, or a 911 operator prior to forcibly entering the vehicle, and the person does not interfere with, hinder, or fail to obey a lawful order of any person duly empowered with police authority or other first responder duties who is discharging or apparently discharging his or her duties
- the person uses no more force than he or she believes is reasonably necessary
- the person rendering assistance remains with the at-risk person or animal, reasonably close to the vehicle, until a law enforcement officer, emergency medical service provider, animal control officer, or other first responder arrives at the scene
The law also specifically defines an “animal” as a dog or a cat, but not livestock.
In Denver, where the triple-digit temperature on Saturday set a new record, the city urged people who see animals locked in a hot car to immediately contact 311 or the Denver Police non-emergency number, 720-913-2000. They also urged the public to familiarize themselves with the good Samaritan law and its protections.
Anyone who leaves their animal in a hot car can face animal cruelty charges that could come with fines and jail time.
What to do if you suspect an animal is suffering heatstroke
But in the event that one takes extraordinary measures to rescue a pet from a vehicle, what should happen next? If the animal may be suffering from heatstroke, there are certain steps to take.
Denver Animal Protection offered tips on what to do if you suspect an animal is suffering from heatstroke:
- Move the animal to shade or a cooler area.
- Cool the pet down with water or ice packs on the stomach only.
- Offer cool drinking water, but do not force-feed it.
- Don’t dunk the pet in water. This can hurt them even more when their temperature regulation is impaired.
- Don’t cover, crate, or confine the animal.
- Even if your pet responds to cooling treatments, it’s critical your pet sees an emergency veterinarian to see if it has suffered irreversible damage.