On Sept. 9, a day weather forecasters claimed would be one of the last hot ones of the summer before temperatures drop, Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval to a law that would protect animals left in cars during extreme temperatures.
The ordinance, proposed last week, would give public safety officials the authority "to enter a vehicle to protect the health and safety of an animal contained within."
According to the bill's sponsor, District 1 Councilor Darlene Harris, Pittsburgh would be the first city in Pennsylvania to pass such legislation.
"It's estimated that hundreds of animals die each year by being left unattended in cars during hot and cold weather," said Harris. "Temperatures rise rapidly inside parked cars when it's in the shade or even when the windows are cracked."
According to a study cited by Harris, after a car is parked for 10 minutes in 90 degree heat the temperature inside rises to 109. After 30 minutes the temperature inside goes up to 124 degrees.
"It just seemed to me that it would be common sense that an officer would be able to break into a car if an animal was in danger," said Council President Bruce Kraus. But he and others also wondered whether the city would be liable for damage to vehicles.
According to Mary Kennedy Withrow, shelter director and director of government affairs for the Western PA Humane Society, in Pittsburgh, while car owners would not be charged with a crime for leaving an animal in their car, they would be liable for any property damage.
Council also gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would prohibit the capture of wild birds.
"Over the summer my office has received several complaints of pigeons regarding being trapped throughout the city," said Harris. "When police and animal control were called, we found it was only illegal to trap birds in city parks and since trapping isn't exactly considered cruelty there was nothing they could do."
Harris said the pigeons are sold to local gun clubs where they are shot for sport.