The ink is barely dry on a new law making it a crime in Rhode Island to leave an animal in a hot car, and Johnston police have filed the first charges in the state.
David Rodriguez is the first person in Rhode Island to be charged with illegally confining an animal in a motor vehicle.
He's accused of leaving his dog in a car in the BJ's Wholesale Club parking lot Monday for more than an hour. When police arrived, they said they found a black poodle in a black car panting heavily.
Police tried to page Rodriguez over the loudspeaker at BJ's, but he never heard the announcement because of a hearing impairment.
The temperature inside his car, where the dog sat for more than an hour, was 124 degrees.
"It had been there for quite some time just by the way the dog was acting. It was panting, salivating. Its tongue was hanging out," Deputy Police Chief Dan Parillo said.
The Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals took the dog into custody, and it continues to be held. The dog is expected to be OK.
"Sometimes, I don't think people understand the severity of what can happen if they leave their animals in their vehicles. They think if they leave windows open or take other precautions it's going to be safe," said Joe Warzycha, an animal cruelty officer for the RISPCA.
The new law makes leaving an animal in a car in extreme weather a misdemeanor.
Rodriguez could face up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both. He's due in court July 16.
Depending on what happens in court, he might not get back his pet.
"There is a statute that would allow a judge to prevent someone from residing with an animal for up to five years. So there are certainly some options to remove the animal from the owner's care," Warzycha said.