District Attorney: Take care of your pets or face consequences

This weekend could be the beginning of dog days of summer, but it’s not the kind Fido or Sparky will enthusiastically celebrate.

With a heat wave bringing temperatures around 117 degrees, heat safety for humans and even pets are top priorities.

And be warned: Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is committed to prosecuting individuals who leave their pets in vehicles unattended or in yards without shade or water during the hot summer months.

Wolfson recently launched an animal abuse awareness campaign that addresses the dangers, and criminal nature, of leaving pets in such situations.

A Nevada statute makes it unlawful for cats and dogs “to remain unattended in a parked or standing vehicle during a period of extreme heat or cold or in any other manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.”

Another statute requires owners to provide outdoor pets with shelters that “remain cool during a period for which the National Weather service has issued a heat advisory” and with “sufficient amount of food and water to sustain it in a healthy condition.”

Most offenses are considered misdemeanors; however, if the animal suffers unjustifiable harm, it can be increased to a felony, Wolfson said.

“If we can show that it was an intentional and willful act, it becomes a felony,” he said. “And we will prosecute.”

According to Senior Animal Control Officer Zachary Zarach , animal control receives double and even triple the amount of heat-related calls during an issued heat warning.

“Extreme heat can cause brain damage or death. A dog’s body temperature is 102 degrees normally. Brain damage occurs at about 106 degrees,” he said. “Four degrees makes all the difference.”

Zarach said it is required in Clark County to provide cooling devices, such as swamp coolers or misting systems, along with shelter for outside pets.

Doghouses are not considered proper shelters because they retain heat and become hot boxes, Zarach said.

Access to the house through a dog door also is not proper shelter because the entryway could become blocked.

As for vehicles, cracking a window does not alleviate responsibility. Wolfson said a cracked window only cools temperatures about five or 10 percent, which can still rise to 140 degrees.

Police officers are allowed to exert reasonable and necessary force to remove a pet from a car, such as jimmying a lock or breaking a window, he said.

To report pets locked in cars, Zarach said, it is best to call the 311 non-emergency line. To report pets in yards, call Las Vegas animal control at 702-229-6444 option 2, Clark County at 702-455-7710, North Las Vegas at 702-633-1750 or Henderson at 702-267-4970 option 4.

If residents come home to find pets showing signs of heavy panting, glazed eyes, vomiting or unsteadiness, Zarach recommended placing cool towels along their neck and back and wiping their paws with rubbing alcohol to release body heat. Cold drinking water can send the pet into shock, but Zarach said allowing the pet to eat or lick ice cubes will help cool their mouth, a primary location of heat release. The pet should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

“It is important that people understand leaving an animal in a parked car, or outside without shade and water, can be fatal for the animal,” Wolfson said. “For those who choose to ignore this message, my office is prepared to prosecute them for their crimes.”