Wheatley and Gainey support legislation to protect pets from being left unattended in cars

HARRISBURG, Dec. 8 – State Reps. Jake Wheatley and Ed Gainey, both D-Allegheny, today joined Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Michael Vick at a news conference to promote legislation designed to stop the practice of leaving pets unattended in motor vehicles.

Wheatley said that under the bill, known as the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, it would be a summary offense to confine a dog or cat in a motor vehicle under conditions that jeopardize the pet’s health.  

“People often leave their pets in hot cars thinking they will be quick but it doesn’t take long for the inside of a car to reach an unsafe high temperature,” Wheatley said. “This legislation is aimed at protecting pets and preventing a tragedy, and I commend Michael Vick for leading the charge to make this proposal a reality.”

Wheatley noted that on an 80-degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 99 degrees in just 10 minutes, and 114 degrees within 30 minutes.  He added that animals do not sweat like humans do, so they have no way to cool themselves down in hot conditions, causing irreversible organ damage, heat stroke, brain damage and, in extreme cases, death.

Under the legislation, H.B. 1516, a police officer or other public safety professional or humane officer would have the authority to remove the dog or cat from the unattended motor vehicle if they believe the animal is suffering and is endangered, after a reasonable search for the vehicle owner or operator. The police officer or other public safety professional or humane officer who removes a cat or dog from an unattended vehicle would not be held liable for any damages.

Gainey urged legislative leaders to bring the bill up for a vote soon, adding that he is sure there is enough legislative support to send the bill to the governor’s desk.

“This legislation is common sense,” Gainey said.  “It’s inhumane to leave an animal locked in a hot vehicle. To many people, pets are not just animals, but extended members of the family. Either way, this legislation outlaws cruel behavior toward animals.”