Wilmington officers say calling 911 is best option if you spot a child or pet in a hot car

Law enforcement urge parents and animal owners to not leave their child or pet in a hot car
Law enforcement urge parents and animal owners to not leave their child or pet in a hot car(Caroline Burkard | WECT)
Published: May. 23, 2019 at 10:12 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As temperatures continue to rise into the heart of summer, officers are working double time to remind parents and animal owners to never leave them inside a vehicle.

Scott Bramly with the Wilmington Police Department says it only takes minutes for a car to get to a deadly temperature, even if the windows are cracked.

“People believe that if they crack their windows, it will help the heat exchange in and out of the car," said Bramley. “All those windows are doing is collecting heat from the outside, the sun shining in the car, it gets hot.”

While many people say they would smash the window to rescue the child, Bramley said to call 911 first and let law enforcement handle the situation.

“If you try to break into that vehicle to try to assist, it could turn. Mom and dad come out of the store and now their window is broken. Now they’re upset and that could sometimes turn into a volatile situation,” said Bramley.

Stephen Watson with New Hanover County’s Animal Service Unit said though leaving a dog in a hot car is illegal, it is also illegal to smash a window, even if it is to save an animal. Officers in the unit say they get five to 12 calls a day about animals in vehicles.

“There is no amount of open window that can make a car comfortable enough for a dog,” said Watson.

WECT spoke to a Wilmington resident to see what they would do if they saw a child or animal stuck in a hot car.

“I would first look at the state of how they are or if they are in a desperate need I would break the window first then call the cops,” said Reid Hand, “But if they seemed like they had plenty of time, especially if it was a dog, rather than a baby, I would call the cops first and then maybe wait for them to get there to break the window.”

Neither North Carolina nor South Carolina have specific hot car laws in place. Though there are no clearly defined statutes on the books, people can still be charged for endangering the health of a child or a pet, depending on how the court applies general abuse and neglect laws.

US Legislators are currently working to pass the Hot Cars Act, which would require all new cars be equipped with an alert system.

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