Is it Illegal to Leave Your Dog in the Car in California?

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Dogs are widely popular pets throughout the United States. Unfortunately, not all dog owners take their responsibilities seriously, and some cause tremendous or even fatal harm to their dogs. Others go so far as to intentionally abuse their pets, sometimes with fatal results. Over the past several years, public outcry has risen concerning the disturbing trend of dogs being left unattended in dangerous conditions. Leaving a pet in a car is one such condition.

While some dog owners may not realize the danger facing their pets when left unattended in a hot vehicle, this does not excuse them from legal responsibility for such actions. Many news stories over the past several years have trended across social media detailing accounts of dogs left unattended in unbearably hot conditions, sometimes without any ventilation or water. State Penal Code Section 597.7 PC makes it illegal for any driver to leave their dog inside of a vehicle unattended in conditions that may result in great bodily harm to the dog. Some dog owners who commit this offense will also face prosecution for animal cruelty.

If your dog was harmed while in someone else’s care, you may have grounds for a civil suit against them. Additionally, the party responsible for harming your pet could also face criminal prosecution. The Kreeger Law Firm can address your concerns and provide the legal counsel you will need if you have grounds to file a civil claim against them for the harm done to your pet.

Is it illegal to leave your dog in the car in California

Risks of Leaving a Dog Unattended in a Locked Vehicle

Unfortunately, some dog owners do not recognize the risks they present to their pets when they leave them inside their vehicles under certain conditions. A few of the risk factors of this behavior include:
  • Heat. The state enjoys warm or hot weather during most of the year. When a car is turned off and parked in the sun, the interior temperature can rise very rapidly in a very short time. Dogs are more vulnerable to extreme temperatures than most people realize, and it’s possible for a dog trapped in a hot car to succumb to heat exhaustion in a relatively short time.
  • Lack of ventilation. Similar to the intense pressure that a hot car can create, a lack of ventilation can cause respiratory distress in a dog. If the dog’s owner leaves the dog in their car without ventilation, such as the air conditioner running and/or ventilation of some kind, the dog could potentially suffocate.
  • Lack of water. Heat and lack of airflow are made even worse for a dog when they do not have any water to drink. As a result, dogs may suffer extreme bodily harm even within seemingly short timespans under dangerous conditions.
Ultimately, every dog owner has a duty of care as a pet owner to refrain from leaving their pet in a dangerous situation. When it comes to locked vehicles, lawmakers have approved specific legal measures designed to address this problem and ensure accountability for dog owners who harm their pets. If you have recently lost your pet while in another person’s care because they left them unattended in a hot vehicle, you could have grounds to file a personal injury case against them. They are also likely to face criminal prosecution from the state.


Q: Can I Leave My Dog in the Car for a Few Minutes?

A: Penal Code Section 597.7 PC makes it a criminal offense for a dog owner to leave their pet in a car in any type of dangerous condition that jeopardizes the animal’s health and safety. If you are only leaving the dog in the car for a few minutes and weather, temperature, and other safety hazards are not present, it is unlikely that you would face prosecution for leaving the dog in the car for a very short time.

Q: What Are the Penalties for Leaving a Dog in the Car in California?

A: In the event that a dog owner is charged under Penal Code Section 597.7 PC, they can potentially face a wide range of serious penalties. A first offense that does not result in serious injury to the dog is an infraction punishable by a $100 fine. If the dog does suffer injury, the offense escalates to a misdemeanor, and the defendant faces up to six months in county jail and a much larger fine. Some defendants may also be charged with animal abuse, which often qualifies for felony prosecution.

Q: Can I Break a Window to Save Someone’s Dog in California?

A: Many news stories have appeared in recent years concerning people breaking into other peoples’ vehicles to rescue pets and even children left unattended in dangerous conditions. In the state, it is entirely legal for you to break the window of another person’s vehicle in good faith if you have clear reason to believe a dog, child, or incapacitated person inside the vehicle is in clear danger.

Q: What Are the Defenses to Leaving a Dog in the Car in California?

A: If you are charged under Penal Code Section 597.7 PC, your only available defense is to prove that you did not jeopardize the dog’s health or safety and only planned on leaving them in the car for a few minutes. However, police respond to calls for unattended dogs after other members of the public have verified they have been left unattended for more than a few minutes. Therefore, if you are charged with this offense, it’s vital to consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

The Kreeger Law Firm has a diverse professional background in civil law, and we have helped many past clients secure far better results than they initially expected in their personal injury cases. If you believe you have grounds for a claim against another party responsible for injuring your dog, or if you have recently experienced any other personal injury, we can help you recover. Contact us today to schedule a case review with our team and learn more about the legal services we offer.