Heat kills, Milford rep, kid governor warn
MILFORD >> State Rep. Pam Staneski and Connecticut’s Kid Governor Jessica Brocksom, a city fifth-grader, are partnering to lead a public safety awareness program to remind residents about the dangers of leaving children and animals in cars.
The “Heat Kills” campaign has the support of the city legislative delegation in both parties, the animal control officer, the mayor, the Police Department and the city clerk.
Jessica, an animal lover, said when she ran for the post that curbing animal cruelty was No. 1 on her agenda.
Staneski is taking the opportunity to boost that platform.
“Since Milford has the Connecticut kid governor and her platform is ‘animal cruelty, let’s end it,’ this is absolutely a great opportunity for animal advocacy at a grass-roots level,” Staneski said.
Staneski said the city’s House delegation worked with Jessica to establish the program, which will include distribution of posters, bumper stickers, pamphlets and similar items about keeping animals safe, according to a press release from Staneski’s office.
“I wanted to do something about this issue,” Jessica said. “I strongly support laws or initiatives that seek to end animal cruelty.”
Jessica plans to visit the Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce and approach local businesses about posting and distributing Heat Kills campaign material, according to the press release.
Milford City Clerk Joanne Rohrig sent out fliers along with annual notices about dog license renewals.
“We have received a great response from our mailing. The campaign, in addition to reminding pet owners not to leave their pets in cars, encourages people to call police if they see a dog locked in a hot car,” Rohrig said, according to a release.
Although Connecticut historically has few cases of children dying after being left unattended, the issue made national headlines last year when 15-month-old Benjamin Seitz of Ridgefield died after his father left him in a hot car for hours, the release said.
There were 44 documented cases of children who died of heat stroke in cars in 2013, according to the website KidsandCars.org. A child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s body, according to information from Staneski’s office, which also says that a car can heat up 19 degrees in only 10 minutes, even with a window cracked open.
National statistics show that 52 percent of children who die of heatstroke in cars are because of forgetfulness by a caregiver; 29 percent are because of playing in an unattended car; and 18 percent are because of an adult’s intentionally leaving a child in a car.
Fairfield, led by state Rep. Brenda Kupchick, started the first successful “Heat Kills” awareness program in 2015, Staneski said.
Jessica was inaugurated in January, has her own office in the Old State House in Hartford and access to staff.
Her three-pronged plan to help animals includes lobbying for tougher laws, educating kids at all grade levels, and fund-raising for food, treats, toys and blankets for animals in need across the state.
Jessica has some meaty goals. She told the Milford Board of Education before her inauguration that she wants to work on changing the state law regarding animal cruelty to a minimum $6,000 fine and six-year prison sentence. The law is a $5,000 fine and five-year sentence.
The Connecticut Kid’s Governor program, run by the Connecticut Public Affairs Network, is in its second year, and intended to teach fifth-graders about state government, elections and the importance of civic participation. The election was timed to coincide with the real-life Election Day in November.
Last year’s winner, Elena Tipton of East Hartford, ran on a platform of kindness.