RI law makes it illegal to leave pets in hot cars

As summer temperatures continue to rise in Rhode Island, so do the number of phone calls about pets being left in hot cars.

"I probably get a half a dozen a week when it's very hot like this," said Joe Warzycha, an animal cruelty officer for the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Warzycha is hoping a new law will bring calls to a new low. It's now illegal to leave pets in hot cars in Rhode Island.

"This really started last year when we had a case involving a dog that died as a result of being confined in a motor vehicle," Warzycha said.

Using a laser thermometer, Warzycha showed NBC 10 just how quickly cars can heat up on days like this.

"So, when I shoot this inside I'm getting a reading of 101.5," Warzycha said.

On an 82-degree day like Monday, temperatures inside a car can quickly jump 20 degrees. In a matter of 10 minutes, that's hot enough to end a dog's life.

"Even if it's not a sunny day, the metal is such a good conductor of heat that it's not a good idea," said Irvin DeLarosa, a dog owner.

Most pet owners like DeLarosa are pleased. The legislation will allow police officers, firefighters or animal control officers to break into any car and free at-risk pets without the car owner's consent.

If you're caught with an animal in your car you could face up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine or both.

"You wouldn't do that with a child either. It's the same thing. It can potentially end someone's life. It's a stupid thing. There's no real reason to do it," Delarosa said.

The legislation also pertains to cold weather.