New laws will make 2019 safer for dogs in Illinois

There's not much about the weather in Illinois that might be considered predictable. But if we know one thing about the weather here in the Prairie State, it's that at some point it will be really fucking cold and at other points, it will be really fucking hot.

Both of those temperature extremes can be very dangerous for dogs, especially if they're left in a car for any length of time. It doesn't take long for a dog to succumb to either hyperthermia when the weather is hot or hypothermia when the weather is cold. In reality, the temperatures don't even have to reach what we might call extremes. For example, with temperatures only in the upper 70s (fahrenheit), a car can quickly become an oven, causing a dog to overheat.

For some real data on the subject, the American Veterinary Medical Association has you covered. Check out this chart.

With all that in mind, I have some good news. According to IllinoisPolicy.org, a law taking effect Jan. 1 will give law enforcement officials in Illinois the ability to take temporary custody of dogs and cats deemed to be in life-threatening situations due to extreme heat or cold situations.

The law, Public Act 100-0740, amends Section 3.01 of the Humane Care for Animals Act (510 ILCS 70). According to the statute:

"Nothing in this Section shall prohibit a law enforcement officer from taking temporary custody of a dog or cat that is a companion animal that is exposed in a manner that places the dog or cat in a life-threatening situation for a prolonged period of time in extreme heat or cold conditions that may result in injury or death of the dog or cat or may result in hypothermia, hyperthermia, frostbite, or similar condition. Upon taking temporary custody of the dog or cat under this subsection (c-10), the law enforcement officer shall attempt to contact the owner of the dog or cat and shall seek emergency veterinary care for the animal as soon as available. The law enforcement officer shall leave information of the location of the dog or cat if the owner cannot be reached. The owner of the dog or cat is responsible for any costs of providing care to the dog or cat."

Now, the new law isn't perfect. The terms "life-threatening situation", "prolonged period of time" and "extreme heat or cold conditions" are not defined. So it's really up to the judgment of law enforcement officers, which isn't always great. Also, this only applies to dogs and cats. Why that is, I'm unsure. And of course, the penalties are far too lenient.

That said, it's a start and the fact that these things are undefined means law enforcement officers have a lot of room to claim that they thought an animal was in a life-threatening situation. Also, the law requires law enforcement officers taking custody of the animals to get them medical care and it makes the owners responsible for the costs of that care.

All in all, I'd call it a net win. This will make dogs and cats safer and protect law enforcement officers who attempt to help them from any sort of liability potentially incurred from doing things like breaking into cars to keep them safe.

But with that in mind, here's a better solution:

DON'T LEAVE YOUR DOGS OR CATS IN EXTREMELY HOT OR COLD SITUATIONS!

Simple, right? I think so. If you have to take your animal out in extreme weather, make sure it's for as little time as possible. If you must leave your dog or cat in a car for any length of time, make sure the temperature in the car is being regulated, either by using the heat or air conditioning.

As nice as this new law is, it's no substitute for taking actual precautions to keep your pets safe.

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