Palm Desert dog owner arrested after leaving pet in car for 102 degree day

A pet owner has been arrested after allegedly leaving his dog in a car as temperatures hit 102 degrees in Palm Desert.

The incident happened on the evening of June 1 in the parking lot of the Palm Desert shopping center. According to the Department of Animal Services, a passerby smashed one of the vehicle’s windows to save the dog as deputies arrived.

Bystanders told animal services officer Rebekah Reyes that the dog, an 8-year-old Pomeranian mix, had been left unattended for at least 45 minutes. Reyes transported the dog to VCA Valley Animal Medical Center & Emergency Hospital in Indio where he was examined and treated for heatstroke.

Hospital staff administered fluids and performed blood tests.

According to Animal Services, before he was transported to the VCA, Reyes checked the dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer and the device registered 104.9.

Animal Services staff veterinarian Dr Luis Lizarraga said a temperature of 106 degrees can be fatal or cause such damage to the dog’s brain that the injuries are irreversible.

“Leaving pets in cars on hot days is very dangerous,” said Erin Gettis, director of animal services. “Please leave your pets at home in the air conditioning, or when traveling with your pet, never leave them in a car.”

A Riverside County Sheriff‘s Deputy arrested the dog’s owner on suspicion of Penal Code 597.7 – leaving an animal in an unattended motor vehicle in conditions that would endanger the animal’s health or welfare.

The owner was released at the scene, however, the department added he could face a misdemeanor conviction and jail time.

The dog’s owner picked up his pet on June 2 from the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms after paying the medical bills ($1,033). Officer Reyes said the landlady admitted she was wrong and hoped to learn from her mistake.

In California, it is legal for someone to break a vehicle window to save a pet if the animal appears to be in imminent danger. California law – which took effect in 2017 – protects people from civil and criminal liability if the car is damaged.

The Department of Animal Services hopes this will serve as a serious reminder to all pet owners not to leave their pets inside vehicles.

According to, when a dog’s internal temperature reaches 111.2°F, their circulation fails, causing kidney failure, lack of oxygen to the brain, and internal bleeding.

The ASPCA said it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of overheating in pets:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate and breathing
  • Drool
  • slight weakness
  • Stupor
  • Collapse
  • Seizures
  • bloody diarrhea
  • To throw up

If you see a dog inside a hot car showing signs of overheating, contact the authorities or see if you can find someone to reach the owner.

While it is legal in California to smash a car window if you see an animal in imminent danger. According AnimalLaw.orga person who removes an animal from a vehicle is not criminally liable for acts done reasonably and in good faith if they do all of the following:

  • (A) Determines that the vehicle is locked or that there is no reasonable way for the animal to be removed from the vehicle.
  • (B) Has a good faith belief that forced entry into the vehicle is necessary because the animal is in imminent danger of harm if not immediately removed from the vehicle, and, based on the circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is reasonable.
  • (C) Contacted a local law enforcement agency, fire department, animal control, or “911” emergency service before forcibly entering the vehicle.
  • (D) Stay with the animal in a safe place, away from the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until the arrival of a peace officer, animal protection officer, an animal control officer or other emergency responder.
  • (E) did not use more force to enter the vehicle and exit the animal from the vehicle than was necessary in the circumstances.
  • (F) Immediately turn the animal over to a representative of law enforcement, animal control or other emergency responder responding to the scene.

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Jennifer R. Strohm