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When the weather gets warmer and temperatures rise, leaving your pet in the car, even for a few minutes, may result in tragic consequences. Unfortunately during the summer, the number of incidents involving animals left in cars increases. Doctor Michał Rudy from the School of Law at SWPS University explains what laws apply to animal welfare in Poland and what you can do if you witness an act of cruelty towards animals.

In June 2017, Polish media reported a case of eight puppies locked in the car booth. The owner left the dogs in the car and went shopping. Luckily the Police intervened and freed the puppies from the car. A veterinarian who was called to the scene assessed that the puppies would have not survived for much longer.

Hot Death Trap

The temperature inside a car that is parked in a sunny spot on a hot day may reach 50°C in just 20 minutes and 60°C in 40 minutes. Leaving a bowl of water for the dog and cracking the window open does not help as there is no air circulation in the car.

A person who leaves an animal in a hot car or abandons it somewhere, violates the Polish Animal Protection Act (Article 6, Section 1a). As the result they may be charged for their actions pursuant to Article 35, Section 1a of the law.

What Can You Do to Help?

What can you do if you notice an animal in distress locked in a car? Do not pass by. First of all you should call the Police or security. In a critical situation, you have the right to break a window or force the door open. In such case, the need to save the animal’s life should be deemed as an act of higher necessity.

It is advisable to have witnesses of your actions, as their statements may be helpful if the driver of the vehicle is formally accused of animal cruelty or if they demand a compensation for damages. It is a good idea to record the rescue on a mobile phone.

Before the intervention, you should assess the state of the animal. Symptoms of a heat stroke include shallow breathing, quick pulse, unresponsiveness to any stimuli and general lethargy. These symptoms indicate that immediate help is necessary. You should also remember that an animal freed from the car may behave aggressively, so you must take precautions. In any case, you should assess the situation before undertaking any steps.

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Vacations with or without Your Pet

Being a pet owner is a big responsibility that includes finding an appropriate place for your pet to stay at while you are away on your vacation. If you decide to take your pet with you on holiday, it is a good idea to have your dog or cat microchipped before your leave, so it will be easy to identify, in case it gets lost in a unfamiliar territory.

During the summer holiday season, some pet owners abandon their animals, often in front of animal shelters, instead of finding a temporary home for them. An animal shelter is not a pet hotel, but a place that provides help for stray animals. When an animal shelter identifies the owner of an abandoned pet, they will notify them to collect the animal and will invoice them for the duration of the animal’s stay at the shelter. It also applies in case of animals that are caught by municipal dog catchers and then brought to the shelter. Pursuant to the Animal Protection Act, animal abandonment is considered to be a form of cruelty towards animals. Similar actions, even if they have not been listed directly in Article 6, Section 2 of the Animal Protection Act, may be deemed as animal abuse. It is sufficient for the prosecution to show that a person failed to provide the necessary care for the animal to charg the owner under this law.

Legal Consequences

An individual who leaves an animal in the car on a hot day or abandons it all together may be subject to a fine, to restriction of personal liberty or to imprisonment to up to two years. An individual who commits extraordinary acts of cruelty towards animals may be a subject to imprisonment to up to three years. If an individual commits a forbidden act against an animal, the court has the right to repossess the animal and place it in the care of an animal welfare institution. The courts may also forbid the accused to be employed in any capacity related to animal care, to run a business involving animals or may order the accused to pay a fine ranging from PLN 500.00 (approx. 117 Euro) to PLN 100,000.00 (approx. 23,400.00 Euro).

People are often unaware that their irresponsible, forgetful or intentionally cruel behavior towards animals may have legal consequences and that pursuant to the Animal Protection Act the perpetrator might be subject to imprisonment up to three years.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michał Rudy, Ph.D. – lawyer with several years of experience of working with public administration, and various companies, including the food industry sector. Partner at Result: Witkowski Woźniak Mazur and Associates Ltd. Lecturer at School of Law at SWPS University. He specializes in administrative law and internal regulations.

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