WILLIAMSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Richmond authorities are sending out a warning to pet owners - don't leave your animals in the car.
A teenager learned that lesson the hard way after a trip to Busch Gardens ended in his arrest Tuesday.
Police had to rescue a pit bull from the teen's sweltering car in the middle of the day. Animal control officers in Central Virginia say this is happening far too often.
"If the situation is grave, if the animal is in immediate distress, we will bust your windows out," officer Rob Leinberger said. "If we find it and spot it when we're out cruising around for the city, then we address it."
It's Leinberger's job to make sure animals are safe. Pet owners are being fined, even charged with felony offenses, because they leave their pets in the car.
"Animals don't perspire like we do, they don't sweat," Leinberger said. "You put on a coat, sit in a car, and that's how the animal feels."
So, we took the temperature inside of car parked in the shade during the evening. It was 87 degrees.
"Eighty-seven degrees can still be uncomfortable, and still potentially detrimental to the animal," Leinberger said.
We then decided to crack the windows because that's what many violators do, leaving their pet in the car as they run into the store.
"You're inside the store, getting your milk, your bread, your eggs ..." Leinberger said.
Three minutes later: "It's only gone down to 85," Leinberger said.
That's enough to be grounds for a neglect charge. Officers say some of their biggest tips come from other people who notice a hot pet in someone's car and rightfully call 911.
"When you walk outside your front door and it's a hot summer day, you leave your pet at home," he added.
Another option he said is to bring a friend or relative with you and leave that person in the car with your pet with the air conditioning running when you have to run an errand.
As for the case at Busch Gardens, the teen was taken to juvenile detention charged with animal cruelty. Investigators say the teen even assaulted a police officer during the arrest. He was also charged with marijuana possession.
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