WESTERLY — A small dog rescued early this week from a hot car in Misquamicut suffered dehydration and overheating, and the owner of the car, Johanna E. Miliano, of the Bronx, N.Y., was charged with leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle under hazardous conditions.
Milano, 22, was charged on Monday. Under a Westerly ordinance, the offense carries a $100 fine.
Westerly Police Lt. Robert Warner said a passer-by spotted the dog in the car at about 1:30 p.m. Monday in the parking lot adjacent to Paddy’s Beach Club on Atlantic Avenue.
The small white dog was in the back of the vehicle and looked extremely lethargic to a responding officer, Warner said. It barely moved or acknowledged the officer, who called for assistance and conducted a thermal test. The outside temperature was 82 but even with the windows lowered about an inch, temperatures in the car “were into triple digits,” the police reported.
“An announcement was made to patrons at Paddy’s, but no one came forward,” Warner said. “When the owner could not be found, officers rescued the dog by unlocking the car with a lock out kit. They then left a note for the owner.”
The dog was taken to the Westerly Animal Shelter, and Warner said Miliano arrived at the Westerly Police Department around 8 p.m. The dog was returned to her at that time and she received the citation.
Westerly Animal Control Officer Art Smith said this week that vigilant efforts in the community have helped curb problems with pets being left in dangerous situations. Only a couple tickets have been issued this year, he said, but the department still receives about one call per week regarding an animal in a vehicle.
“Many times, there are no signs of distress. We don’t want to ticket people, so unless there is a concern, we are more focused on educating the public,” Smith said on Wednesday.
When it comes to bringing a pet on longer trips or to run errands, Smith said, the best advice is just don’t. Although the intent is usually a fun family day, stops such as a quick trip to Walmart are not always as fast as people expect, he said, putting pets in danger.
Hot days can continue well into September, and even even when it’s in the high 70s outside, Smith said, the sun beating down on a car can raise the inside temperature to 100 degrees.
In most cases, Smith said that officers will work with residents and use thermal technology if possible, but the Westerly ordinance, 76-14(c), allows the department to enter any vehicle where there is a present danger.
“No person shall leave an animal in an unattended vehicle when the conditions prove to be hazardous to the animal's health and well-being,” the statute reads. “It shall be the determination of the Animal Control Officer or police officer on scene if a violation has occurred and if extraction of said animal is required by any means necessary. Determination shall be made by simple observation or with the use of a thermometer.”
In the case on Monday, Smith said, “The dog was in dire straits and the owner was nowhere to be found. The officer took action into his own hands and went above and beyond. In my opinion, he saved this dog’s life.”