Don’t leave your dogs in a hot vehicle

We have all seen it. Some of us — in a hurry — may even have done it. But don’t! It’s a warning that all pet lovers should heed year-round, but especially now, as temperatures rise.

“It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation,” says Anna Friedman, Shelter Director of Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society, which operates the county’s animal shelter in Batavia. “Most people don’t realize how hot it can get in a parked car, even in the shade on what you might think is a comfortably cool day.”

Friedman notes that when temperatures outside are 78 degrees, temperatures in a car parked in the shade can exceed 90 degrees within just a few minutes. And if parked in the sun, temperatures inside can hit a scorching 160 degrees — resulting in tragedy.

“Just 15 minutes can be enough for an animal’s body temperature to climb from a normal 102.5 degrees to deadly levels that will damage the nervous and cardiovascular systems, often leaving the animal comatose, dehydrated and at risk of permanent impairment or even death,” Friedman notes. For this reason, veterinarians and other experts recommend not leaving pets (or children!) in parked cars even for short periods if the temperature is 60s or higher.

Okay, you say, so what if I leave a window rolled down or the air conditioning on — that would be safe, wouldn’t it? No.

Rolling down a window or parking in the shade doesn’t guarantee protection either, since temperatures can still climb into the danger zone. And if the window is rolled down sufficiently, the pet can escape. Plus if a passer-by claims he or she was bitten through the car window, the pet owner would likely be held liable.

And leaving a dog in the car with the air-conditioning running also invites tragedy. Most car, van and truck models these days rely on computerized functions that are programmed to automatically shut off the air system’s compressor when the engine gets too hot. At that point, instead of cooling, the system blows out hot air, which can cause interior temperatures to rise even faster. A North Carolina couple lost two of their beloved dogs as result of a similar situation, despite leaving bowls of water and ice in the car and the air-conditioning on during a shopping trip of less than 30 minutes.

“If you see a pet in a parked car on a warm day, there are things you can do,” advises Friedman of Clermont Animal CARE. “You can report the car make, model, color and tag number to the manager of the nearest store and ask that the owner be paged immediately. Or you can call the police, who have the authority to rescue the endangered animal from a locked vehicle.”

In cases where you determine the vehicle is locked, believe that the animal is in imminent danger if not removed, have made a good faith effort to contact local law enforcement, make a good faith effort to place a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with contact information, the reason entry was made, and the location of the animal, and remain with the animal in a safe location until law enforcement or emergency responders arrive, you are immune to liability resulting from forcible entry of a motor vehicle.

Only in the most extreme situations when there is no other alternative should you break into the car yourself, as you may be held liable for damages despite your best intentions.

So the best advice of all: if you have errands to run this summer, leave your pets at home.

They’ll be safer there, and you’ll avoid a potential tragedy.

Op-ed submitted by the Clermont Animal CARE Humane Society