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Owner Arrested by Sheriff’s Deputy

A recent incident in the Coachella Valley is a serious reminder to all pet owners: don’t leave your four-legged friends inside vehicles.

An Animal Services officer responded to a call on June 1 at approximately 6 p.m. regarding a dog left inside a hot car at The Shops at Palm Desert, 72-840 Highway 111. The high temperature in Palm Desert on June 1 was 102 degrees.

When officer Rebekah Reyes arrived, she contacted her supervisor to explain the situation – and told him that a Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy was enroute. While she was on the phone, a bystander smashed one of the windows of the Chevy Colorado. Bystanders told the officer the dog, an 8-year-old Pomeranian mix, had been left unattended for at least 45 minutes.

Officer Reyes rushed the dog to the VCA Valley Animal Medical Center & Emergency Hospital in Indio where it was examined and treated for heat stroke. Staff at the hospital administered fluids and did blood work.

Before transport, the officer checked the dog’s temperature using a rectal thermometer and the device registered 104.9. Animal Services staff veterinarian Dr. Luis Lizarraga said a 106-degree temperature can be fatal or cause such damage to the dog’s brain that the injuries are irreversible.

“It’s very dangerous to leave pets in cars during high-temperature days,” Animal Services Director Erin Gettis said. “Please leave your pets at home in the air conditioning or, when traveling with your pet, never leave them in a car.”

A Riverside County Sheriff’s deputy also arrived. He arrested the dog’s owner on suspicion of Penal Code 597.7 – leaving an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that would endanger the health or well-being of the animal. The woman was released on scene. She could face a misdemeanor conviction and jail time.

It is legal for someone to smash a vehicle window to save a pet if the animal appears to be in imminent danger. California is one of a handful of states that allows good Samaritans to rescue an animal without facing penalties. The California law – started in 2017 – protects people from civil and criminal liability if the car is damaged.

The owner of the dog retrieved her pet on June 2 at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms after paying the medical bills ($1,033) at the VCA hospital. Officer Reyes said the owner admitted that she was wrong and hoped to learn from her mistake.

Contact a Shelter

Western Riverside: (951) 358-7387 (PETS)
San Jacinto: (951) 358-7387
Coachella Valley: (760) 343-3644
Blythe: (760) 921-7857
Toll Free: 1-888-636-7387 (PETS)

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