DES MOINES, Iowa — Summer moments with a four-legged-friend can prove animals become more than pets. “He’s not a pet to me. He’s family and I treat him like he’s one of my own,” said Rachel Wills of Des Moines. Rachel knew with summer temps rising she needed to find a place for Duke, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, to beat the heat at Gray’s Lake. “He’s having a blast,” said Wills.
On Saturday July 9, two dogs in distress weren’t as fortunate as duke and had to be rescued from separate unattended vehicles in the heat by the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and Des Moines Police Department.. “Honestly it makes me mad, it makes me angry and it makes me want to get them out myself,” Wills said.
The dogs checked out healthy and no charges were filed but thanks to vocal bystanders calling it in they’ll live. “If we find that an owner has been negligent there are different crimes we can charge them with. One of them, the most severe, would be animal cruelty,” said DMPD Sergeant Paul Parizek.
It’s a lesson animal orginizations and police preach every summer but Parizek said, “Despite that we are still answering these calls so it’s on the rest of us to look out for those who are vulnerable whether people or pets.”
The high for Tuesday July 12 in Des Moines was 85 degrees. On similar days the National Weather Service says it takes just ten minutes for inside temps of a vehicle to reach triple digits and become deadly. Parizek said, “I don’t think people understand just how hot it gets in a car. On average it is a forty degree difference in an hour from what the outside is.”
Police say if you see an animal or child in an unattended vehicle without air conditioning there’s no need to wait if you are capable of gaining access into the car by any means necessary. “We are asked often ‘What if I break the window?’ If you see an animal that is in distress or a child in distress it is very unlikely that there will be any criminal charges if you are acting in good faith,” said Parizek.
Animals by nature but family by heart. “Imagine sitting in your car for all that time with no air, no nothing?It’s really hot. It’s not fair to the animals,” said Wills.
Since Iowa state law currently sees the crime as a misdemeanor Sergeant Parizek says jail time is unusual but still possible. The charge would also come with a heavy fine if you leave your pet in an unattended vehicle.