The Animal Cruelty Taskforce of Southern Arizona [ACT] and its member agencies will be working hard in the coming weeks to raise awareness about the dangers of our summer heat on domesticated animals such as cats and dogs.
As with years past, ACT is issuing a warning about animals left in hot cars or on illegal tie-outs. This year, however, ACT is also encouraging the public to more actively report animals being sold on roadsides or abandoned in empty apartments, houses or in desert areas. Although the latter two issue are not specifically related to our high summer temperatures, both of these criminal activities increase during the summer months when residents relocate, go on vacation or are faced with unexpected litters produced by unaltered family pets.
HEAT ISSUES: State, county and city ordinances all prohibit the confinement of animals in vehicles when conditions exist that may threaten the animal’s life or well-being. Such conditions may include extremely hot temperatures like we are already experiencing in southern Arizona. Both natives and visitors will regularly make the mistake of leaving their animals to suffer under these dangerous conditions in public parking lots, at malls, movie theaters, supermarkets, etc.
Arizona Revised Statute 13-2910-A7 allows police and animal control officers to use reasonable means to remove the animal from the vehicle, including breaking out windows. Officers can take these steps and provide emergency medical care to the animal without the owner’s knowledge or consent. If the animal suffers any serious bodily damage or death, the owner could be arrested and charged with felony-level animal cruelty. Additional information.
Tie-outs are illegal in Pima County, the City of Tucson and most surrounding communities. Animals on tie-outs are under extreme risk during the summer heat. Often, dogs confined to ropes, tethers and chains have restricted access to shade, shelter, water and food. Some owners may increase the stress on the animal by applying heavy chains unsuitable for pets, or attaching a tether to a heavy object like cinder blocks, tires or weights. If left in the heat, animals living under these conditions are at extreme risk for illness or death. All animals are required to have access to appropriate shelter which will protect them from the elements, good ventilation and drinkable water under city, county and state laws.
ROADSIDE SALES: No animal (defined as a mammal, reptile, amphibian or bird) can be sold, given away or otherwise transferred in public areas such as on public street, roadway, right-of-way, sidewalk, park or swap meet in Pima County. In the city of Tucson, the law prohibits the sale or transfer of ownership of animals on or from any public street, roadway, right of way, sidewalk and park except as provided by the Tucson Code. Police, animal control and humane organizations see a marked increase in complaints about illegal animal vending during the hot summer months, when the animals may be confined to vehicles, boxes or cages; set on hot surfaces such as pavement or concrete; denied water; or exposed to direct sunlight for hours at a time. The summer months also mark the peak of puppy and kitten season, and many unwanted litters are disposed of in this manner. Additional information.
CRUEL ABANDONMENT: If an owner can no longer care for an animal, he/she has two legal options: surrender the animal to an animal shelter or re-home it with a responsible third party who is willing to assume the animal’s care. Unfortunately, cruel abandonment (when animals are dumped in desert areas, on roadside or left behind in empty residences) has increased dramatically over the last two years. Affected animals have included mostly dogs, cats and horses. ACT is encouraging the public to report cruelly abandoned animals to 911. Free educational posters on this topic, produced by ACT in cooperation with the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona, are available by calling (520) 321-3704, Ext. 101 or 121, Monday through Friday.
REPORTING AND RESOURCES: Contact 911 for animal-related emergencies such as confinement to hot cars and other heat-related issues.
88-CRIME (520-882-7463) will also accept anonymous reports dealing with these issues, but it should be noted that emergencies should always go to 911 first.
The Humane Society of Southern Arizona offers additional useful services, including free information on summer and home safety for pets; and low-cost spay / neuter services to help solve the overpopulation problem. HSSA can be contacted at (520) 327-6088 or online at www.hssaz.org.