Hadley Police remove dog from sweltering vehicle in store parking lot, fine Greenfield man

Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2014
HADLEY — Police cited a Greenfield man Monday after they found his dog alone in a vehicle they say reached 100 degrees with its windows closed.

The man, who police declined to identify, was issued a $100 civil fine for the incident under the town’s bylaw on the humane treatment and care of animals.

Hadley Patrolman Mitchell Kuc responded to the parking lot of Home Depot on Route 9 about 6:30 p.m. Monday for a report of a dog panting in a vehicle. The discovery of the mixed-breed dog had earlier been brought to the attention of the store’s management, according to police. The outdoor temperature that day reached the mid-80s.

“Several customers complained,” Kuc said.

Using an infrared thermometer, Kuc determined the outside surface of the vehicle and ground to be around 100 degrees and, finding the vehicle doors unlocked, recorded the inside temperature of the vehicle at 100 degrees. The dog was OK, Kuc said, but he brought the animal to an air-conditioned police cruiser to await the owner’s return.

“The temperature was definitely a factor, and all of the windows left completely up was an aggravating factor,” Kuc said of the incident.

Kuc’s decision to remove the dog from the vehicle is supported by a state Supreme Court decision in April that permits police and animal control officers to rescue animals in an emergency aid situation from someone’s private property without a search warrant. The same exemption exists for people.

The Supreme Court case involved an animal control officer who in January 2011 removed two dead dogs and another emaciated one all chained to a fence in a yard in Lynn. The dog’s owner, Heather M. Duncan, was prosecuted for three counts of animal cruelty.

In appropriate circumstances, the court ruled, “animals, like humans, should be afforded the protection of the emergency aid exception.”

Hadley police have issued civil citations and fined dog owners in previous years for leaving their pets in hot vehicles — though not every case merits a citation. The town’s bylaw states that it is a violation to leave “any domesticated animal unattended in a vehicle when a reasonable person would believe that the temperature could cause serious injury or death to the animal.”

The Home Depot call was one of five similar calls police received during a 24-hour span starting on Sunday.

“The word is getting out there about these types of instances and we’re getting more calls about it,” said Kuc, who also serves at the town’s animal control officer. “While we do appreciate the calls, there definitely needs to be more than just a dog being in a car.”

Kuc said Hadley Police take the town’s bylaw to protect animals seriously and will continue to cite those who endanger animals. More serious cases could lead to criminal charges, he said.

With the warm weather here, police caution dog owners to leave their pets at home if there is a chance they will be left in a vehicle for any long periods. They also ask the public to take into the consideration the behavior of the dogs and the circumstances before calling the police. They also discourage people from confronting owners who leave their dogs in hot vehicles.

“We don’t want to escalate the situation any more than it already is,” Kuc said. “People do get upset with these types of calls.”

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.