For those of us spending another summer in Arizona’s lower elevations, complaining about the heat never seems to get old. Home air conditioners always seem to break during an extreme heat warning, and we purposefully shop at grocery stores with plenty of trees to shade our parked cars. Without shading our cars, we may require a pair of oven mitts to touch the steering wheel. The absolute worst part of the summer in Phoenix or Tucson, apart from high electric bills, melted ice cream, and wilted grocery store lettuce, is having to forgo most outdoor activities with our dogs.

Unfortunately, our animals are physically ill-equipped to deal with extreme heat during exercise.  Dogs in particular do not sweat, as we all know. Panting is one way a dog cools off, but dogs also release heat through their paws. Try walking with bare feet on hot dirt during the height of summer if you think only the pavement is dangerous. Pet booties may prevent scorched paws, but they are not necessarily a long-term solution for keeping your pet safe in the Arizona sun, whether it is a sidewalk outing or a mountain trail. Moreover, dogs can get so excited about going for a walk or a hike, they may not show how much heat distress they are in until it’s too late. Since most of us must take our dogs outside for exercise in the summer, we should only do so in the mornings or evenings for short a duration, and with plenty of water and shade nearby. To determine your dog’s individual heat tolerance, please talk to your veterinarian before any summer outing.

Not only is losing a beloved family pet to the heat a heart-breaking situation that may land you on the evening news, it is also a crime for a person to disregard the extreme heat risk and recklessly inflict unnecessary physical injury to any animal. A.R.S. § 13-2910 (A)(3).

As a reminder, in Arizona, a person also is guilty of cruelty to animals if the person “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly leaves an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle and physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result.” See Title 13, Section 2910, paragraph A (7) of Arizona Revised Statutes. An animal is defined as a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.  Even if the animal survives, conviction may result in a six month jail sentence and a fine of up to $2,500.00.

If you see an animal trapped in an unattended hot car this summer, even for a moment, and even if the animal does not look distressed, call 911. Per the statute, a peace officer or animal control agent is authorized to break into the car to save the animal. Likewise, if you are nuts enough to go hiking during the extreme heat of the day, call 911 immediately if you see any person or dog in heat distress.

Tami Hugo Haley is a partner with Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, a full-service law firm with offices in New Mexico, Utah, and throughout Arizona. She lives in Mesa, AZ with her husband and their two big mutts.