BRICK – It goes without saying that, in this summer heat, no person or animal should be left unattended inside a locked car.
Despite this, it still happens.
Police were called to the Brick Plaza on Chambersbridge Road on July 30 for reports of a dog locked inside a vehicle in the parking lot of the movie theater.
Numerous worried posts and angry comments from bystanders quickly made the rounds on social media regarding the incident.
Brick Police Sgt. Jim Kelly noted that social media, in many cases, tends to inflate the incident, and the dog was ultimately unharmed.
According to eyewitness accounts, the dog was in the Ford Fusion, parked out at the end of the lot near a dumpster, from at least 7 p.m. while the owners were inside the AMC movie theater.
“The dog was extremely still and looked as though he was breathing heavy from his chest although his mouth wasn’t open and tongue not hanging out…I felt very helpless and it was very disturbing watching no one help the dog out of the car. They (the police) promised to keep watch of dog and were waiting for animal control,” said Debbie Cino Dennerlein, one witness to the incident.
Dennerlein had been in the shopping center at the time and tried to help by posting the incident to social media, which in turn spurred a heated discussion on Facebook about breaking the car window.
Dennerlein left the plaza around 7:30 p.m. after a second officer arrived on the scene. Before departing, she heard one of the officers say that they were having a hard time running the plates on the vehicle, since they were from out of state.
According to Sgt. Kelly, the dog’s owner was seeing a movie while the dog was left in the car. A family member told police that the owner was checking on the dog every 15 minutes or so, although witnesses did not mention seeing the owner at the vehicle.
Police also added that, while the car was locked, the windows were cracked about an inch to allow some fresh air in.
Another witness to the incident arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. Mindy Padalino arrived between 8-8:30 p.m. “with a portable dog bowl and a water bottle… just in case.”
By this time, the driver’s side door of the vehicle had been opened and a female was sitting there holding the dog, she said.
Police report that between the times the dog was found and when the dog was freed from the vehicle, it has been about 45 minutes.
“There were two young children standing beside her outside of the car. There were two police cars, two officers, a white car and a man and a woman in the aisle so I was unable to pass through them. Not sure who was who, however the dog appeared to be “okay” … at least it was alive, so I left,” Padalino told Jersey Shore Online.
While the dog seemed to make it through the incident unscathed, the matter “blew up” on social media, Padalino said. People were angered at police for “following protocol” and refraining from breaking the car window.
The “protocol” she is referring to is that it is frowned upon in New Jersey to rescue an animal trapped inside a car by breaking the window or entering the vehicle. Many other states allow this, calling it the “Good Samaritan” law, such as California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee.
Sgt. Kelly told Jersey Shore Online that there is no law that says police cannot break the window and that they will do so “if it’s reasonably necessary.”
The legislature in New Jersey simply works to prevent incidents like these in the first place with NJSA 4:22-26, which states that it is against the law in New Jersey to leave a living animal or creature unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature. The fine for this violation is “not less than $250 nor more than $1,000.”
Police did not believe this incident called for a break in protocol so the window was left intact. When the dog was freed from the car, it was transported to an emergency vet for examination and released back to the owners that same night.
Humane liaisons from the Brick Police informed the reporting officer to contact the Prosecutor’s Office. No arrest was made in the incident.
Police only issued a summons to the owner for leaving the dog in the vehicle unattended, Kelly said.
Sgt. Kelly summed up the incident, stating that “the dog was not in distress.”