Take law a step further

One thing I’ve learned from my career in newspapers, is that people can’t stand a lot of things – potholes, parking regulations and taxes

One thing I’ve learned from my career in newspapers, is that people can’t stand a lot of things – potholes, parking regulations and taxes are pretty much universal dislikes. There’s pretty much a guarantee that any of those topics is going to bring up strong feelings.

There’s also things that people like to read. They really like to see their child’s name mentioned (and spelled correctly) in the sports pages. They like to read about other people’s misdeeds in crime and court stories and they love a good animal story.

Stories about rescued ducklings, stranded deer or even cougars and bears on the prowl all generate significant readership. As I’ve previously written, studies have been done that show the number of people reading an article jumps tremendously if it is about a dog – and the same goes for cats.

The recent rescue of a cat from a tree in Sorrento Park is another example. The plight of the kitty created a message string into the hundreds and had people anxiously sitting at their computers waiting for live updates from the rescue scene.

As an animal lover, and with my particular fondness for canines,  nothing makes me crazier than a few traits of block-headed humans.

One is the sight of people tooling around town with their dogs loose in the back of pickup trucks. The other is people who leave their dogs locked in hot cars while they go about their business somewhere else. Having watched this situation unfold a few years ago, I still remember the feelings of anxiety and helplessness as we waited for the SPCA or police to arrive. These are the only two agencies legally able to break into a vehicle to rescue a dog, which must be in visible distress.

Bystanders were willing to do the job themselves and risk possible prosecution or sanctions for taking such action. Fortunately, the police arrived before this happened, followed shortly by the owners, who were on the receiving end of a few choice words as they opened the vehicle. (Probably a good thing the cops were on scene at the time to keep the peace.)

The NDP are now proposing legislation to help protect animals in such situations, noting in 2014, the BC SPCA, with only 26 special constables, received more than 1,000 such calls from around the province.

The only thing is, the legislation would permit bylaw enforcement to seize animals in distress when there is inadequate ventilation. Well to me, this is an example of a law that doesn’t go far enough. It might be a help in larger centres where there are more bylaw enforcement officers, but in Salmon Arm, there is a grand total of one officer. This might be another place for people to turn, and for that, this proposed law is better than nothing.

But I’d rather see a law passed similar to Good Samaritan legislation that would protect the rights of citizen rescuers who take action to rescue an overheated animal in a locked vehicle.

Watching an animal suffer and possibly die in an hot car is inhumane. Our laws need to recognize that.