The Southington Police Department is cracking down on people reported for leaving their pets in hot cars in the summer heat, Lt. Keith Egan said at a press conference on Wednesday.
In total, Southington police have received nine complaints of dogs left in hot cars in the past month, Egan said. Through those nine complaints, the police made three arrests on animal cruelty charges, with two announced on Wednesday.
“The overall message is that if you’re going to be taking the dog out with you in public and you plan on shutting off your vehicle and leaving that dog in the vehicle, leave the dog home. Even if it’s just for five or 10 minutes,” Southington Animal Control Officer Joshua Karabin said.
Karabin said that on a day like Wednesday when temperatures are in the mid-80s, a car that’s parked and shut off can rise one degree per minute for the first 30 minutes in direct sunlight.
“On a day like today for 15 minutes, the temperature could reach 100 degrees quickly within that 15 minutes,” Karabin said. “Thirty minutes? You’re up closer to 120 degrees, which would be fatal if the dog’s left in those conditions.”
Suzy Rivers, 37, of Cheshire turned herself in to Southington police on Tuesday after an incident on June 29 when she called police to report that her dog, a 1 1/2-year-old Boston Terrier, was inside her parked car at the Southington Library and not moving. After removing the dog from the car, police attempted to administer first aid but were unsuccessful.
Police said Rivers’ car was parked outside in the full sunlight with an outside temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Surveillance video from the library shows Rivers entering the building just before noon, police said. Around 3 pm Rivers had a conversation with a library employee before being seen on video outside the library with another library employee, police said. Witnesses inside the library saw a library employee inside Rivers’ car and became suspicious, police said.
Witnesses told police that Rivers’ rear window was reportedly open by about 6 inches while she was inside the library.
Southington animal control officers arrived and determined that the temperature inside the car was between 99 and 105 degrees. Officers also noted that Boston Terriers commonly experience breathing problems and are susceptible to excessive heat.
On July 23, an officer was sent to Shop Rite on Queen Street on a report of a dog left in a vehicle. The weather was 91 degrees outside, police said. The officers found a Chevrolet Trailblazer parked near the north entrance of Shop Rite directly in the sunlight. The vehicle was not running and windows were only open around 1 1⁄2 inches.
An officer, noting that the dog was in distress, unlocked the vehicle. Shortly after opening the car, the officer talked with the dog owner, Salvatore Conaci, 65, of Southington, who said he thought leaving the windows open with water in the car wouldn’t “be that bad.”
Conaci is believed to have left his dog unattended in the car for around 15 to 25 minutes, police said. Southington’s animal control officer estimated that the temperature inside the car reached between 100 to 105 degrees.
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This was the third incident in July involving Conaci, police said. On July 8, police received a call to Ocean State Job Lot and another on July 19 at Aldi, reporting that a dog was left in a vehicle. In those earlier incidents, Conaci returned and moved the car before police arrived.
Police also arrested a Wilton woman on Monday for leaving her dog in her car on June 30 while visiting a nursing home in town. Witnesses reported the dog had been inside the vehicle at least 25 minutes with the two front windows open between 2 to 3 inches, according to police.
Egan said that none of the people arrested intended to harm their pets, and all took some measures to keep them cool, like leaving water and opening the windows slightly.
“We find that most of these people truly care about their pets and their intention isn’t to harm them,” Karabin said. “They go everywhere with them.”
He also said they recognize that people often view their pets as family members and bring them places, but advised residents to keep them home if they are going to a place that does not allow pets.
Rivers was charged with cruelty to animals, police said Wednesday. She was released on a $15,000 non-surety bond and is scheduled to appear in New Britain Superior Court on Aug. 3.
Conaci was issued a misdemeanor summons for animal cruelty, police said. He was released on a $2,500 non-surety bond and scheduled to appear in New Britain Superior Court on Aug. 4.