Is It Illegal to Leave a Dog Unattended in Your Car in California?

Is It Against the Law to Leave My Dog Locked in My Car -

A Lesson in Mindfulness and the Law?

So, its my Blog and I can rant if I want to?

If you've visited our Enlightened Divorce Blog over the years you may have bumped into my posts about Jake, my former beloved Jack Russell, and Jasmine - another Jack who is now the puppy love of my life. I am devoted to those people and animals that I care about and can protect, and would never knowingly put them in harm's way. I'd wager this is true for you too. Our relationships with our animal dependents mirror our relationship with others, and ourselves.

Many, if not most, other people feel and respond similarly with respect to honoring our obligations to the beings entrusted to their care. We can only wish that when that time arises for us, others will similarly honor their responsibilities. Unfortunately, this social contract is, particularly in divorce when conflict escalates, often a tragic karmic loop. Break the parental contract with your child, for instance, and and reap the consequences and unleash them on society too. Fail to water your dog or cat, and they will die. Beat them and they will attack your neighbor. Likewise, the experience and choices of people in divorce is just one facet of the 10,000 jewels that add up to the quality of our lives and what we bequeath. And, pointers show up in the smallest things.

Some months ago I stopped at a 7-Eleven, together with Jasmine. It was probably 85 degrees here in Palm Springs that day, and I opened the sun-roof, and the windows. Unsuspecting as I exited the car, I was approached by a gentleman who insisted that it was AGAINST THE LAW to leave my dog in my car, even for a moment. He offered to call the police if I disagreed, and came way too close to us.

I kept my mouth mostly shut, leashed Jazzie and took her in the store with me. For awhile afterwards I replayed the exchange (sound familiar?), with stories of how it might have gone differently. Some were more enlightened than others. I understood that leaving a dog, or a baby, could become a recipe for heartbreak, disaster or worse and on that level the point the fellow made was valid.

Today I watched a similar ambush unfold between another 'good Samaritan' and a dog owner. What triggered the memories of my own experience was the level of hostility from a self-appointed law enforcement civilian towards the guy who'd left his dog in the car while he evidently went grocery shopping (a long list, a short list? I dunno). He informed the dog owner that it is AGAINST THE LAW IN CALIFORNIA!!! to leave his dog in the car. The dog-owner was obviously embarrassed, and responded that he was sorry, from Canada, and didn't know - he tried to back away from the exchange quickly.

I thought I might as well help clarify the rules relating to leaving dogs in cars. California Penal Code section 597.7, entitled "Unlawful leaving of an animal in an unattended motor vehicle", subsection (a) states:

"No person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal."

Violation of that statute is a misdemeanor, subjecting the violator up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.

Leaving your dog in the car after the sun is down and air temps are low, as was this situation, does not appear to be a crime. However, that does not make it a good idea, I confess. Good judgment is required.

A number of Municipal Codes - including the Palm Springs Municipal Code ("PSMC") - have a zero tolerance towards leaving pets unattended in an "enclosed" vehicle (probably including the cities he knew). PSMC section 10.22.020. Essentially, however, the City can only impound the animal, within a police or animal control officer's discretion. You will not be arrested.

While people do incredibly stupid things all the time involving those creatures they are charged with protecting and it may be appropriate for us to point that out to others in proper situations (or intervene in much stronger ways if life and safety truly are at risk), this world needs more equanimity - even on the small stuff. We will be far more effective expressing our concerns with balance, rather than taking on the role of policeman in our dealings with each other, at the grocery store and on the streets.

Unfortunately, the behaviors I am describing are but a tiny reflection of a larger malaise in our society, in these times. Our entire nation would do well to consider that having a perspective about every other nation's or people's behavior does not make our views helpful or useful for our own interests. The microcosm of our day-to-day interactions tracks and reflects back the larger picture and circumstances.

As it relates to divorce, co-parenting, and moving on in the land of relationship-end, there are lessons that might be generalized from this minor story about how we approach each other, out there in the world. Worth a thought? In the meantime, much can be achieved when we convey our concerns in ways that don't raise the hackles others.

Author: Thurman W. Arnold III