House Bill passes to protect animals left in cars

Published: Jan. 18, 2019 at 4:40 PM EST
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Friday morning the West Virginia House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill that will allow law enforcement officers and other first responders to legally break into locked cars and help trapped animals.

It is illegal in our state to leave an animal unattended for long periods of time in cars if there is a chance of harm, but now some groups can intervene.

"What we are doing with this bill is providing that certain individuals have the ability lawfully to enter into a vehicle where an unattended animal is danger," said Judiciary vice-chair Moore Capito (R).

With this law, everyday citizens can't break into a car to help an animal, but now firefighters, police, humane officers and EMS personnel can.

This bill is good news for residents like Tina Bulka, who believe animals should be treated like children when it comes to leaving them alone in cars.

"It's a no-brainier on this question because dogs and cats require the same care as any child would," said Bulka. "So I think if you're going to pin them up in a car on a hot or cold day it just doesn't fly. And I think it's unfortunate that someone would treat their pet like that."

Once the animal is rescued, whoever freed them must leave the owner a written note explaining how they can get their animal back. But some residents don't believe they should get to keep their pet after leaving them.

"Somebody needs to be on the defense of the animal," said Bulka. "And I think that the pet should be taken away from the owner actually if that were to happen."

"If they do it once then they are going to do it again," said resident Terrance Paletta.

Those who are found leaving their animal in a car and putting them in harms way will be fined and charged with a misdemeanor for the offense.

Fines will be no less than $300 and no more than $2,000. There is also a possibility of a six month jail sentence.