HERNANDO BEACH, Fla. — Editor's note: The image above is a stock photo.
Hernando deputies say a woman could be facing animal cruelty charges after leaving her dog in a hot car for eight hours.
Around 10 p.m. Saturday, deputies responded to Linda Pedersen Park in Hernando Beach after receiving a call about a dog alone in a car.
The caller, who spotted the animal in the car around 2 p.m., reportedly told deputies that the dog was still there when he returned from fishing at 10 p.m. He added that all the windows were closed except for the driver's side window, which was cracked slightly, according to the sheriff's office.
The outdoor temperature during that time reached 95 degrees.
Deputies say they immediately removed the dog from the car through a previously damaged window that was sealed with plastic sheeting. They said the animal had defecated throughout the car's interior.
The owner of the dog, a 49-year-old woman, reportedly returned while deputies were still on scene. According to the sheriff's office, she told them she left the park around 2 p.m. to ride with her boyfriend to make DoorDash and GrubHub food deliveries in Wesley Chapel.
The owner said neither company allows dogs in the car while working.
Animal enforcement officers responded to the park to take custody of the dog and complete a fitness petition. The sheriff's office says an arrest warrant for the dog's owner is forthcoming on a charge of animal cruelty.
So far this year, there have been at least 23 reports of animals dying after being left in hot cars, according to PETA. There have been 168 rescues.
According to Florida law, someone who enters a car, including by force, can be immune from penalty for saving a person — and the law applies to rescuing an animal, too.
Florida is one of 14 states with laws providing protection from lawsuits or charges for people who try to rescue an animal from a hot car, according to data compiled by the Michigan State University Animal Legal & Historical Center.
However, there are steps you need to take to protect yourself from liability.