A new law prohibiting the confinement of animals in motor vehicles under circumstances that threaten the animals' health goes into effect today.

Under NC House Bill 612 pet owners could face a Class 1 or Class 2 misdemeanor should their animal suffer serious injury or die as a result of confinement in a vehicle.

According to the bill, "It is unlawful for a person to willfully confine any animal in a motor vehicle under conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or under other endangering conditions."

Now if a member of the public sees an animal confined inside a motor vehicle is in obvious distress that person can call 911 for emergency service assistance.

The legislation allows animal control officers, police officers, firefighters and rescue squad workers to enter the vehicle if they believe an animal is in danger.  But first they must make an effort to locate the vehicle owner or other person responsible for the animal.