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DA: Fairgoers need to leave pets at home

ESSEX COUNTY — During the heat of the summer and in the lead-up to the Essex County Fair, which runs from August 13-17 in Westport, Essex County officials and the Essex County Animal Cruelty Task Force are imploring pet owners to leave their dogs at home and not leave them in enclosed vehicles. Even during relatively mild days, cars quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, putting pets at risk of severe distress and even death.

Leaving a dog in a hot car is considered animal cruelty and may be prosecuted. In recent years, several Essex County fairgoers have been arrested for leaving their dogs in their vehicles while attending the fair.

Essex County officials vow to crack down at this year’s fair on owners who leave their dogs in hot cars. Essex County District Attorney, Kristy Sprague is promoting safety for one’s pet and asking fairgoers to leave their dogs at home.

“No one wants to put a damper on a fun day and that is exactly what will happen if pets are located in vehicles and owners are charged for this offense.” Dogs are not allowed on the fairgrounds and fairgoers will be turned away in the parking area if they have a dog in the car.

Jessica Hartley, executive director of the North Country SPCA and member of the Essex County Animal Cruelty Task Force, encourages owners to think twice before taking their dogs with them to the fair or to run errands, even if it is just a quick trip to the post office. “You never know what will happen. It’s easy to get sidetracked. A two-minute trip to pick up your mail can quickly turn into a half-hour conversation with a neighbor you haven’t seen in months. In that amount of time, your car can heat up to more than 120 degrees, causing nerve and organ damage, or death.”

Studies show that cracking the windows has very little effect on the internal temperature of a car. And people are often under the misconception that dogs are more equipped than humans to handle the heat. In fact, the opposite is true: dogs are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness because they can only regulate their body temperatures by panting and “sweating” through the pads on their feet. County officials also encourage people to call local law enforcement if they see a dog in a hot vehicle. A simple phone call could be life-saving for that animal.

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