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Donation to West Hartford Animal Control Will Help Monitor Condition of Dogs Left in Cars

SBS Eighth grader Dylan Errico (center in white shirt) stands between West Hartford Animal Control Supervisor Karen Jones and Police Chief Tracey Gove at the check presentation. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Students from Saint Brigid’s School in West Hartford presented West Hartford Police with funds they raised to purchase two laser thermometers to be used by the Animal Control Division in potential ‘animal cruelty’ cases.

West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove (back row, far left), Animal Control Officer Helen Lee (next to Gove), and Animal Control Supervisor Karen Jones (back row, far right) were on hand as Saint Brigid Principal Shevon Hickey (second row, far right), students, and teachers presented a check to the West Hartford Police Department to purchase an infrared thermometer. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove (back row, far left), Animal Control Officer Helen Lee (next to Gove), and Animal Control Supervisor Karen Jones (back row, far right) were on hand as Saint Brigid Principal Shevon Hickey (second row, far right), students, and teachers presented a check to the West Hartford Police Department to purchase an infrared thermometer. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Students at West Hartford’s Saint Brigid School turned a service project involving pets into a fundraiser for the West Hartford Police Department’s Animal Control Division – and the device that will be purchased with the funds will help the department in cases of possible animal cruelty.

Those students and their teachers, along with Saint Brigid Principal Shevon Hickey, presented a check for $178.07 to West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove, Animal Control Supervisor Karen Jones, and Animal Control Officer Helen Lee on Tuesday morning.

Jones said that once temperatures rise above 70 degrees, “Please leave your dogs and other pets at home.” It’s too dangerous for them to be left in the car. “In a matter of a few minutes, it can become a life-threatening situation,” she said.

Unfortunately, many people don’t follow that advice. Gove said that the department gets calls about animals left in cars nearly every day during the warmer weather, and several times a year they have to forcibly remove dogs from cars.

The Digi Sense Dual Infrared Thermometers that the Animal Control Division will purchase are able to accurately measure and document the temperature inside the car. “There are lots of digital thermometers, but this one is calibrated. It can stand up in court and back up what we’re doing,” Jones said.

Trinity Martin (in green shirt) brought her dog Buster to the check presentation ceremony. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Trinity Martin (in green shirt) brought her dog Buster to the check presentation ceremony. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“We’re extremely thankful for what you have put together. You will help a lot of animals, and you’re also helping educate people about pet care,” Jones told the students who gathered for the check presentation. One of the students, fifth grader Trinity Martin, brought her dog Buster to the ceremony.

“We’re moved that you did this. You could have found any other local charity, and we are very appreciative,” Gove said.

The funds were raised through several school fundraisers, including a sale of pet rock to decorate, several animal-related contests, and dress down days. “Our goal was $130, enough to purchase one of them, but the school community really responded,” eighth grade teacher Kathleen Johnson said. Her class partnered with Sharon Perkins’ second grade class for the service project.

Several of the eighth grade boys created a funny YouTube video to dramatize the message about not leaving dogs in hot cars. “It’s wrong to mistreat animals,” said Dylan Errico, the script writer for the video.

“We were trying to keep it local,” said Johnson. The police suggested the focus on animal cruelty, which tends to get less attention than their K9 unit.

“Animal Control will be able to fund most of the cost of two devices thanks to the donation – and they will be able to keep one in each Animal Control van, Jones said.

What the police first look for when a pet is reported left in a car are symptoms of heat exhaustion, Lee said. Those symptoms include “distress, heavy panting, lying on its side.” The infrared thermometer gives them one more tool to use, and gives police sufficient probable cause to forcibly enter a vehicle.

Although Gove said that police can make entry into a vehicle without causing damage, they still need to document the safety of the animals.

“It gives us a better idea if there is a treacherous situation,” said Jones, who called the kids’ efforts “amazing.”

“Our society is so dog friendly that people want their dogs with them all the time,” said Lee. But that’s not always best for the dog.

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