Police urge drivers to leave pets, children at home during summer heat

Law enforcement agencies present demonstration on hot car safety

PALM BAY, Fla. - Police are urging drivers to make wise decisions when it comes to children and pets in cars as the summer heat climbs to scorching temperatures.

Tuesday, law enforcement agencies did a demonstration of a mistake that they say happens far too often.

In the scenario, a mother has left her son in a parked car. Two women walking by spot him.

"In most cases, it's an accident," said Captain April Hastings with Orlando police.

In a recent case, a Manatee County family left their 3-year-old in a hot car as they attended a funeral. They thought he was with the babysitter, and forgot him in the car.

Local 6 has covered stories where a number of parents have been arrested, accused of leaving their kid in a hot car. Surveillance video from a few years ago, shows a local mom inside a Publix with her daughter as a 3-year-old sat in the car for 40 minutes.

One of the more tragic cases was in Ocoee in 2007. A mother who worked at city hall accidentially left her 22-month-old girl in the car for 3 hours. She died.

"If you leave a child in a car unattended it's a crime," said attorney Richard Schwamm.

Schwamm says the law and the punishment is too weak. Right now, as it stands leaving your kid in a hot car for a few minutes is legal.

"What this law says in a nutshell is that if the motor is off, it's okay to leave a child in the car for up to fifteen minutes..that makes little sense," Schwamm said.

Safe Kids says this year is on track to be the deadliest one across the country. Florida is said to be the worst state. Four kids have died in their own cars in 2013 and summer has just started.

Leaving children and pets in vehicles during the hot summer months can have serious repercussions. Authorities are reminding drivers that leaving children in a vehicle for 15 minutes, even with the motor running, puts their health at risk.

Deputies are intent on informing drivers that on a 90 degree day, the temperature in a car can rise to 110 degrees in only ten minutes.

These risks include heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death.

The crime would be considered a second degree misdemeanor. If a child suffers physical injury, a driver could be charged with felony child neglect.

While leaving a pet in a vehicle is not punishable by the law, it is important for drivers to remember how dangerous it is for them as well. It could also constitute for animal cruelty, which is considered a first degree misdemeanor.

"We see it happen too often, especially with pets," said Doug Muldoon, Chief of Palm Bay Police. "Unfortunately sometimes we see it when it's too late and the family pet suffers significant heat trauma or is killed as a result.

Officials recommend that in the intense Florida summer heat, pet owners should make the informed decision to leave their pets at home.

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