ALBANY — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday signed legislation authorizing firefighters and other emergency medical responders to remove animals in unattended motor vehicles under conditions that endanger their health or well-being.

This legislation is aimed at reducing wait times when calls are made to 911 that a pet is in danger, especially in areas and at times when law enforcement or animal control availability is limited. The bill goes into effect immediately.

"Leaving a pet in a stifling hot or freezing cold car is inhumane and potentially dangerous, and emergency responders should have the ability to remove them if necessary," Governor Cuomo said. "As a dog owner myself, I am proud to sign this measure into law to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of animals."

Also Wednesday, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection, Office for Children and Family Services, and Department of Health warned New Yorkers about the perils of leaving children and pets in cars during hot days.

In addition to the real and severe danger of leaving children or pets in hot cars, the caregiver could be culpable under child endangerment laws. Sadly, 819 children have died nationwide due to Pediatric Vehicular Heatstroke (PVH) since 1998. Ten of these were in New York State.

New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection, said, “All of these tragic deaths could have been prevented. I urge caregivers to put in place whatever steps or reminders are necessary to ensure that children and pets are not inadvertently put in danger.”

New York State Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila Poole said, “It’s imperative to look before you lock, and remember to check the back seat before walking away from your car. Infants and little children are especially sensitive to extreme heat and their body temperature can increase three to five times faster than an adult’s if they are left in a hot vehicle. You can put something you’ll need at your destination–such as your keys, cell phone, wallet or purse–next to your child so you’ll be sure to see your child when you park the car.”

New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Extreme heat can cause specific health challenges and requires extra precautions to ensure kids and pets stay safe. Hot summer days can very quickly lead to heatstroke and are a reminder to take the extra steps for a safe drop-off. Always check the backseat and trunk or cargo area, and keep your keys and remote-access devices out of a child’s reach to prevent them from being trapped inside.”

Heatstroke can occur when the internal body organs or body core temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Heatstroke symptoms may include: confusion, combativeness, faintness, and bizarre behavior. High body temperature can cause irreversible brain damage.

A body temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit is considered deadly. On a clear 85 degree Fahrenheit day, the temperature of an enclosed motor vehicle can rise to 104 degrees Fahrenheit in minutes, 119 degrees in half an hour, and 128 degrees in one hour.

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) and the Department of Health urge parents, guardians and other caregivers to abide by these tips (available in English and Spanish). Specifically:

Never leave a child in an unattended vehicle in the warm weather, not even with the windows slightly open or down, due to the risk of heatstroke (hyperthermia).

If you see a child in a hot car, call 911 right away and follow instructions. Emergency personnel are trained to respond.

Teach children not to play in or around vehicles and to alert an adult when a friend is playing in a vehicle without supervision. Make sure children understand the dangers of trunk entrapment (suffocation, heatstroke, etc).

Place a stuffed toy in your child’s car seat when not in use and move the toy to the front passenger seat when your child is in his/her car seat as a reminder that your child is in the vehicle.

Conversely, place something in the backseat that you would need, such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone.

Additional tips to ensure safety of children and pets in cars on hot days:

When driving with a child in a vehicle, use drive-through services whenever possible.

Place something in the backseat that you would need, such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone.

Double-check the car to make sure that all occupants leave the vehicle or are carried out when unloading. Locking the door with an actual key, as opposed to a remote or key fob, would force the driver to take one last look in the car before leaving it.

Always lock your car and keep keys and remotes away from children.

Set cell-phone reminders to ensure children have been safely transported to their destination(s).

Have a plan in place to ensure your childcare provider will call you if your child does not show up.