New Augusta ordinance could mean jail time for leaving pets in cars

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, June 19, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- With summer knocking on the door, your car is about to start becoming a real hot spot. That's why local leaders want to make sure your pets aren't trapped inside.

On Tuesday night, Augusta commissioners approved an ordinance to keep pets out of cars on the hottest and coldest of days.

The idea is to protect pets like Lily, whose owner, Skye Moffet, says, "I don't know what we'd do without her. She brings a lot of joy into our family, so she's like the child we don't have."

And, like any member of the family, Lily goes along on family trips, but her mom is never far away.

"A pet shouldn't have to suffer in the car just because you've got to run in and get some groceries, that's not fair to the pet," Moffett said.

Which is why Augusta commissioners just approved a new county wide ordinance that makes it illegal to leave your pet in the car if it is over 85 degrees or below 35.

Edward Jefferson, field supervisor for Richmond County Animal Services, said, "We felt very good that they passed the ordinance. Now when the citizens call us, we have some teeth to go out and do our job."

If an officer finds a pet in distress, they can now shatter your windows to save them. Moffett, for one, is happy about this.

"I'm glad they passed something like that so that no dogs have to suffer. I mean, I would never let anything like that happen to Lily," she said.

But while many agree that 85 degrees and above is legitimate, some are saying 35 degrees just isn't that cold for a dog. Moffett says her dog Lily actually prefers the cold weather.

According to Jefferson, the temperatures were recommended by animal professionals.

"We talked with veterinarians and we got their recommendations and their input and that's where we came up with the idea 35 to 85 degrees," he said.

But officials say not to worry too much because they won't go out searching for pets in cars as soon as the temperature drops below 35.

"We don't just go patrolling, they call us and then we have to respond," Jefferson said.

And they don't get many calls during the winter months.

According to Jefferson, "Mostly, it's the hot weather. That's where we get all our calls."

City Administrator Fred Russell said, "You've got to draw some lines some place. And that 35 degrees is what the people who deal with animals thinks are appropriate."

But legally, if they think your pet is in distress in 35 degree or below weather or temperatures above 85, they can take action. The consequences include a fine up to $1,000 or even 60 days in jail.

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