9OYS Continuing Coverage
Leaving a dog in a car: What does the law say?
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - After an officer of the law left his K-9 counterpart in a sweltering cruiser for more than an hour this week, 9 On Your Side viewers want to know what will happen to the man responsible, DPS Officer Korey Lankow. Was a crime committed, ultimately leading to the dog’s death? What’s the punishment? Investigators and prosecutors are still at work and we won't have answers for some time so 9 On Your Side looked at this all-too-common crime in general.
“It is it against the law to leave your dog in your car?” reporter Kevin Keen asked Tucson trial attorney James Campbell. “It is against the law to leave your dog in the car,” he answered.
Campbell, of Kinerk, Schmidt and Sethi, said doing so can be considered animal cruelty according to Arizona state law
. But every case can be different, depending on the circumstances.
First, Campbell said there are the most serious crimes.
“If a person knowingly leaves their dog in the car--if they go to the store, saying, 'I'm going to leave my dog in the car' with the intent to harm the dog,” that, Campbell said, is a felony punishable with up to three years in jail.
In a second type of case, Campbell said a person acts "recklessly" leaving a dog in a vehicle.
“It doesn't take very much time at all for the temperatures in that car to skyrocket,” he said. “With that background knowledge, you take your dog to the grocery store in the car, that's recklessness because you know better but you're still disregarding the dog's safety.”
That's a misdemeanor, according to Campbell and Pima Animal Care, with up to six months in jail, up to three years probation and up to a $2,500 fine.
Third and finally, Campbell said there are cases that are tragic accidents in which a person neither knowingly nor recklessly leaves a dog.
“If the prosecutor believes that it's an honest mistake, that doesn't fall within the confines of the statute,” he said. “They won't prosecute it.”
The Tucson Police Department investigation into what happened to Jeg should tell us if authorities believe Landow committed an animal cruelty crime. If there are charges, the case could go to court.
DPS also has its own investigation to see if Landow broke any of its policies. That investigation could lead to a separate punishment.