I am a nine-year resident of Idyllwild, and until now, I’ve never felt compelled to write you a letter. But a cartoon on page 5 of last week’s paper upset me, and I must say something.

The cartoon depicts a dog left inside a vehicle, and its message warns dog owners that the interior of a car can “turn into an oven.” True. Even a car parked in the shade with two open windows will not provide adequate ventilation. On a warm day, the interior of your vehicle can easily reach temps exceeding 100 to 160 degrees within minutes. Imagine how hot it gets inside a car when our outside temps are in the high 80s to low 90s?

My problem with the cartoon is that it implies that as long as you roll down a couple of windows in your vehicle, it’s perfectly safe and legal to leave your animals inside. Not true. It’s not safe, and it’s not legal, either — not in California (and 14 other states). Here is the state of California Penal Code 597.7:

“No person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food and water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability or death to the animal.”

Owners who leave their animals unattended in a vehicle are breaking the law. Their animals are vulnerable to serious injury or death — dogs especially, who can only cool off by panting. Your dog is likely to suffer heat stroke, vomiting, seizures, nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, or brain damage.

And you are likely to face criminal charges, including felony animal cruelty. Would you like to face prison time and a hefty fine? Not to mention the potential suffering or even death of your beloved pet?

Here’s fair warning: From now on, if I see an animal left unattended in a vehicle — windows down or not — I’m calling 911. I will photograph your animal in the car, I will photograph your license plate and I will report you to the police. They might use force to release your animal, even if that means breaking a window or a door lock.

I’m looking out for you. More importantly, I’m looking out for the vulnerable pets in Idyllwild.

Sharilyn Miller

Editor’s note: Penal Code section 597.7 does not support the writer’s blanket statement that “Owners who leave their animals unattended in a vehicle are breaking the law.” Nonetheless, the cartoonist and the editor agree that not leaving your animal unattended in a vehicle at all is a better practice.