Q: Is it legal to leave your dog in a car in the summer with the air conditioner and car running but locked? We occasionally will do this while grabbing a quick bite to eat or running a fast errand.

A: Minnesota State Statute 346.57 says, “A person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat’s health or safety. A peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, a humane agent, a dog warden or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department of a political subdivision may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation of subdivision 1.

The law addresses the issue of the unattended pet in a “standing or parked motor vehicle” but also states “a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat’s health or safety.” You mention that the dog is left in a running car, with the air conditioning on and doors locked. I see a few issues:

* Where are the owners of the vehicle and when are they coming back?

* How would law enforcement know the air conditioner was on or working when approaching the vehicle?

* What if the vehicle’s engine quits running?

* Some cities with high auto thefts, as well as for noise reasons in residential areas, have ordinances in place so that a vehicle cannot be left unattended, locked up and idling.

I would advise pet owners to use caution and always look out for your pet’s well-being and safety.

Sgt. Neil Dickenson is a public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol.