Damon Howell / Photo
Jasper Police Chief Greg Lovell testing one of the new thermometers on a car that had been sitting in one place all day Tuesday. Different temperature readings from the dash, console, and floorboard inside the car were all well over 100 degrees. Lovell said it had not been determined what temperature would be considered too hot for animals.
At their June meeting, Jasper City Council unanimously approved a graduated fine schedule for people who leave their dogs in cars that officers determine are too hot and dangerous.
Fines will be: First Offense - $50; Second Offense - $100; Third Offense - $150.
During hot summer months, the city police department and animal control office receive numerous calls reporting dogs left in parked vehicles. Jasper Police Chief Greg Lovell said the new fines will give them a tool to address issues, but noted his department will use “lots of discretion.” The fine schedule will allow them to issue citations in certain
instances where they do not feel the more serious Cruelty to Animal charge is warranted.
“In cases where someone goes into Walmart and maybe stays a few minutes too long, but the windows are down and the animal is okay, this will give us something we will be able to use rather than putting someone in handcuffs,” Lovell said.
More serious cases can be addressed with the Cruelty to Animals charge, which would be handled in Pickens Superior Court, not Jasper court.
Lovell cited a recent incident where a complainant called about a dog left in a vehicle at a retailer on East Church Street.
“It was a little old man and he had the windows down and the animal was fine, but someone saw the dog and called us,” Lovell said. “We ended up writing up a report on him and he started crying, saying his dog was his only friend and he’d never hurt it. I don’t want to – and I’m not going to – slap a Cruelty to Animals charge on someone like this.”
Lovell said the fines approved by council are significantly lower than surrounding counties like Cherokee, which he and Jasper Mayor John Weaver think are too steep.
Home Depot and Jasper Council Member Kirk Raffield donated four temperature gauges that officers can use to determine the temperature inside a vehicle.