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Sioux City Council unanimously approves ordinance that prohibits owners from leaving pets in hot vehicles

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Animal Adoption and Rescue Center

The Sioux City Animal Adoption & Rescue Center is shown, at 2400 Hawkeye Drive, in Sioux City in this 2012 file photo. 

SIOUX CITY -- The Sioux City Council unanimously voted Monday to adopt an ordinance that prohibits individuals from keeping animals in a vehicle or the bed of a parked truck when the outdoor temperature exceeds 79 degrees Fahrenheit, unless the animal is enclosed inside the vehicle with the air conditioning turned on.

Previously, the city code had a nonspecific requirement that animals not be kept in vehicles during conditions of "temperature extremes." The new ordinance is adapted from a similar code in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a place that often experiences higher summer temperature extremes. It will supply police and animal control personnel with an "enforceable, quantifiable threshold condition" to determine a violation.

Chris Wall, of the Sioux City Animal Adoption and Rescue Center, told the council that animal cruelty cases have been thrown out in the past due to a difference of opinion with the courts about what was considered hot weather. 

"It was ambiguous before, but now there's a threshold where we know we're good to prosecute a case or no we don't have a case at that point," he said.

Wall noted that when the temperature outside is 80 degrees, within 10 minutes the inside of a vehicle can reach 99 degrees and, within 30 minutes, it can heat up to 114 degrees. 

"It gets real hot real quick," he said. 

Under the new ordinance, as well as previous language in the code, a peace officer or animal control officer is authorized to use whatever force is reasonable and necessary to remove any animal from a vehicle or other enclosed space whenever it appears that the animal's life or health is endangered by extreme temperatures or lack of ventilation. The officers would not be liable for any damages caused to the vehicle or other enclosed space.

"I'm somewhat supportive, but it's amazing to me we have a dog ordinance now, but don't have a kid ordinance. It's totally unbelievable," Mayor Bob Scott said. "I'm not anti-dog or pets, but kids are a heck of a lot more important to me than a dog or a cat."

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Moore asked if animals tend to survive being left in hot cars. Wall said animal control officers have responded to a few calls this year. But, he said by the time officers arrived on the scene, the vehicles had already left. 

"We've not actually caught anybody this year," Wall said. "But, as we were leaving this afternoon, there is a dead dog case that's come in from a dog that was left outside, not in a vehicle, but it was left outside all afternoon." 

Anyone found in violation of the proposed ordinance would receive a municipal infraction penalty. A first offense would be $100 plus costs, for a total of $195.


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