Skip to main content

It's against the law to leave pets unattended in parked motor vehicle

sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol

Question: Hi, I read your “Ask a Trooper” responses in the daily news and have a question for you: common sense — I am aware it is illegal to leave your dog in the car, but I was also told it’s illegal to leave your car running/idling with the dog in the car so you can keep the air conditioner on for them. Wondering if this is true? I looked it up and saw no idling laws except for Minneapolis. 
Answer: You are correct. Minnesota State Statute 346.57 says, “A person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety. A peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department of a political subdivision may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation of subdivision 1. A person removing a dog or a cat under this subdivision shall use reasonable means to contact the owner of the dog or cat to arrange for its return home. If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the dog or cat to an animal shelter.”
This is a good question as it could be a bit of a gray area with the situation you described. The law addresses the issue of the unattended pet in a “standing or parked motor vehicle” but also states “a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat's health or safety.”  You mention that the dog is left in the running car with the air conditioning on and doors locked. I see a few issues:
•How do we know the air conditioning is working?
•Where is the owner of the vehicle and when is he or she coming back?
•What if the vehicle’s engine quits running or the vehicle runs out of fuel?
•Cities with high auto thefts, as well as for noise reasons in residential areas, have ordinances in place so that a vehicle cannot be left unattended, locked up and idling.
I would advise any pet owner to err on the side of caution and always look out for your pet’s wellbeing and safety.
If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848, or on his Twitter feed at MSPPIO_SOUTH.

You must log in to continue reading. Log in or subscribe today.