Crime & Public Safety

Bluffton woman loses custody of her dogs after leaving one of them in hot car, police say

Is it illegal to leave a dog in a hot car? Only one of the Carolinas has a clear law

Only 28 states in the U.S. have laws against leaving pets in hot cars. Here's where it's illegal, how fast temperatures can climb inside a car and how fast the Humane Society says your dog can have a heat stroke.
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Only 28 states in the U.S. have laws against leaving pets in hot cars. Here's where it's illegal, how fast temperatures can climb inside a car and how fast the Humane Society says your dog can have a heat stroke.

A Bluffton woman was charged with animal cruelty and had her pets taken away from her Monday morning after she left one her dogs inside her car in 80 degree heat, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office report.

A man was installing an irrigation system in the yard of a house in the Woodbridge neighborhood when he saw the next door neighbor pull into her driveway, the report said.

Later, he noticed a small dog jumping around inside the vehicle, which was turned off and parked directly in the sun.

After an hour, he walked over to the van and saw that the dog, a Yorkie-poo, was “in distress and panting heavily,” a deputy wrote in the report. The man told deputies he knocked on the front door multiple times but no one answered so he called police.

When deputies arrived and knocked on the front door, there was an “overwhelming and foul odor consistent with animal urine and feces,” according to the report.

The homeowner eventually came outside, retrieved the dog from the car and gave it water after a deputy requested she do so, the report said.

She told deputies she was going back and forth between the house and the vehicle to move things, but it took her “longer than she expected” to bring items from the home out to the car.

She would not let deputies into her home to examine the living conditions, but said the animals use the bathroom inside because she works on Hilton Head Island from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and cannot come home to let them out during the day, the report said.

She did allow an officer with Beaufort County Animal Services to examine her three dogs.

One was covered in fleas to the point “you could see them crawling all over his body,” the report said. The dog had irritated skin covered with scabs.

Due to living conditions, the health of the dogs, and the woman not being able to financially support the dogs, she agreed to surrender custody of them to Animal Services, the report said.

The cruelty to animal charge fine is $500, according to Beaufort County court documents.

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Lana Ferguson has covered crime, police, and other news for The Island Packet & Beaufort Gazette since June 2018. Before coming to the Lowcountry, she worked for publications in her home state of Virginia and graduated from the University of Mississippi, where she was editor of the college newspaper.


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