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Ask A Cop: What are rules for dogs in cars?

Editor's note: Every week a Lake Oswego police officer answers your question in this space. Send your questions to reporter Cliff Newell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

"What are the city ordinances for keeping dogs in cars for long periods of time? How do the Lake Oswego police enforce them?"

The Lake Oswego Police Department receives many complaints throughout the year about dogs being locked in vehicles, regardless of outside temperatures. 

Many citizens are confused about laws or ordinances pertaining to this issue. HOLMLUND

A dog simply locked in a vehicle is not necessarily a violation. There are many factors that come into play, such as what is the outside temperature? If the vehicle is parked in the shade and are the windows down for adequate air flow? How long has the dog been left in the vehicle, and what is the proximity of the owner?

Officers use discretion in determining if there has been a violation of our city code. Lake Oswego City Code 31.02.120, “Prohibited and Regulated Conduct,” addresses the issue of dogs being locked in a vehicle and prohibits an owner or keeper from confining an animal within a vehicle where conditions may endanger the health or well-being of such animal. 

The code includes dangerous temperatures, lack of food, water or attention, or confinement with another dangerous animal. 

For example, if an officer is called out to a complaint of a dog locked in a vehicle and finds the windows up on a day where the outside temperature is 48 degrees, then commonsense is used to determine that the dog is not in danger of overheating. If we receive a similar complaint on a day in June, where the outside temperature is over 70 degrees, then enforcement may be needed. 

Upon arrival at such a call we will first make sure the dog is not in immediate danger and attempt to contact the driver of the vehicle. If we are unable to locate the driver or owner of the vehicle and the dog becomes distressed, then we have the authority to remove the animal from the vehicle and impound the dog at a veterinary office or shelter. A note would be left on the vehicle in a secure and conspicuous location for the driver. 

In addition to impounding the dog, a citation may be issued to the keeper of the animal for violation of LOC 31.01.120, in the amount of $145. Neither the city nor officer shall be held criminally or civilly liable for this action if it is done in good faith with probable cause. 

— CSO Cindy Holmlund




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