Metro: officers respond to distressed dogs in vehicles at any temperature in Casper - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Metro: officers respond to distressed dogs in vehicles at any temperature in Casper

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CASPER, Wyo. — Animal protection officers with Casper’s Metro Animal Services told the Casper City Council during their Tuesday, July 14 work session that they take reports from citizens concerned about dogs left in vehicles seriously, regardless of the temperature.

The discussion came as the city council prepares to consider changes to the city’s animal care and control ordinance. The council will consider the proposed changes on first reading during their Tuesday, July 21 meeting.

Modifying the aspect of the animal care and control ordinance as it pertains to animals left in vehicles is one aspect of the overall proposed changes.

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Under the current ordinance, it is unlawful to leave a dog in a vehicle when the temperature is 60 degrees or above unless animal protection officers are of the opinion that adequate water and ventilation are provided.

The proposed ordinance would increase the temperature threshold to 70 degrees. The current ordinance does not stipulate a low temperature which could lead to a determination that a dog has been unlawfully left in a vehicle. The proposed ordinance would make it potentially unlawful to leave an animal in a vehicle when the temperature is below freezing.

That section of the ordinance as drafted would read as follows:

It is unlawful for any animal(s) to be left in a motor vehicle when the outside ambient temperature is above seventy (70) degrees Fahrenheit or below freezing, except where, in the consideration of the Animal Protection Officer, the animal is provided adequate accommodations for the temperatures. (i.e. water, ventilation, heat, air conditioning and bedding).

Animal Protection Officers and other law enforcement may undertake investigatory steps and actions, appropriate under the circumstances, to protect the life of any animal confined in such a vehicle.

Proposed City of Casper ordinance

Metro Animal Protection Supervisor Scott Shell told the council that the important thing from Metro’s perspective is that proper ventilation, fresh water and air conditioning or heat are provided for the safety of animals left in vehicles.

Shell said he had researched ordinances in other cities and that “a lot of ordinances don’t have a definition with temperatures in there” but instead make it illegal to put an animal in a situation where it would face prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold.

“I think the reason we want to go from 60 [degrees] to 70 [degrees] is because when it is 60 degrees outside and a dog is in a vehicle, that’s kind of that temperature where its not really going to be in much distress,” Shell said. “So it is hard to enforce anything when it is 60 [degrees].”

“But when we don’t have a temperature at all and it just talks about extreme cold or heat, that gives us more leeway to enforce and take necessary action when something is in immediate danger.”

Animal Protection Officer Tiffany Hyde said that in six years of experience working on the streets of Casper, she found that 60 degrees doesn’t tend to constitute dangerous conditions for an animal in a vehicle.

“The reason I put it back up to 70 [degrees] is in my experience, even being out on the street for six years, 60 degrees in Wyoming is a beautiful day,” she said. “You have the windows down a little bit, its a gorgeous day out there.”

Hyde noted that Casper’s animal care and control ordinance previously utilized a 70 degree threshold which was than lowered when the city council adopted changes in 2019.

“Since we went from 70 [degrees] to 60 [degrees] a little bit over a year ago, the call load has not increased or decreased either way,” she said. “Quite frankly, if we get a call at 50 degrees outside, somebody claims the dog is in distress, we respond.”

“We’re going to go look regardless. If we get a call, somebody is concerned about a dog in a vehicle, we’re going to go look into it regardless of the temperature.”

Shell added that officers would require a pet owner to provide water and ventilation “regardless of what the temperature gauge says outside.”

“That’s what a dog is required to have in its backyard so why would it be any different?” Hyde added. “It’s sitting in a parking lot in a car, it needs that water, it needs access to that.”

The council’s Tuesday meeting begins at 6 pm at City Hall where they will take up consideration of the overall proposed animal care and control ordinance changes.

Other aspects of the proposed ordinance include changes to tethering rules in Casper, a proposed ban on the feeding of feral cats and non-domesticated animals (with exceptions for animals like birds, squirrels, rabbits, ducks and geese) and more.

Full details of the proposed ordinance changes are included in the council’s work packet.