Updated June 15, 2021 - 4:51 pm
Owners who leave pets to fend for themselves in Las Vegas’ unforgiving summer heat could face hefty fines and even jail time if they are found in violation of the city’s new animal cruelty ordinance.
That was the message delivered Tuesday by city officials and a group of social media “dog influencers” at a news conference to highlight the danger that extreme heat poses for pets and people.
The new law makes it illegal to leave pets in hot cars and tether a pet outside for more than 10 hours during a 24-hour period or at all if the National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory, such as the excessive heat notice now in place through Saturday amid a potentially record-breaking heat wave.
It also requires pet owners to have cooling systems in place, such as misting systems or portable air conditioners, whenever temperatures reach 105 degrees.
“We want to save the lives of our pets as well,” said Councilman Cedric Crear, who hosted the event. “They are very valuable persons in our community.”
The city’s animal control officers will be enforcing the new provisions, however, punishments are associated with the court system, said Las Vegas Department of Public Safety Chief Louis Molina. If someone is convicted of animal cruelty, they can be prohibited from owning another animal for up to five years or fined up to $1,000.
Molina said Animal Control officers drive around the city regularly and will respond if seeing a distressed animal. But he encouraged the public to call 702-229-6444 to report concerns and 911 in cases of pet emergencies such as a dog in a hot car. Those calling are asked not to break vehicle windows or engage in a confrontation with the owner.
“It’s important to know that a lot of our calls do come from neighbors and people from the public so we do urge that if they see an animal in that situation they should call,” Molina said.
Last year, Molina said the city documented 29 animal cruelty cases, but “only a handful” that might have been heat-related. He added that the department has not seen a spike in calls since the new ordinance passed.
Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Chief Jeff Buchanan, who also spoke at the conference, highlighted the importance of looking around before exiting a vehicle. Buchanan said temperatures in cars can reach heights of 135 or more and people sometimes forget that they brought their pet along as they were running errands.
“Having a clear understanding of the consequences is where you maintain your vigilance,” Buchanan said.
Near the end of the conference, the “dog influencers” — the owners of Maverick, aka “thatgoldennoodle”; Hippo the black labrador; and Pearl, Opal and Ruby, three basset hounds — showed off what Molina described as a key summer protection for four-legged companions: booties to protect their paws from hot pavement.
“Dog paws are just as sensitive as our human feet,” he said, adding that the paving can cause second- and third-degree burns on their pads.