Pets and Hot Cars

Summer is right around the corner and it’s a good time to remind all pet owners not to leave pets in the car on a hot day.

Hundreds of pets die annually from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles. Unlike humans, dogs are unable to sweat. They rely mainly on their respiratory tract to dispel heat by panting. Dogs with more nasal surface area are more efficient at dispelling heat vs. smushed face breeds. However, overheating can strike all breeds in a very short amount of time. High temperatures can cause serious illness, heat stroke, irreparable organ damage, and even death.

I think it’s safe to assume all pet owners have good intentions when they leave their pet unattended for “just a few minutes while I go in the store.” Unfortunately, even with windows cracked studies show the temperature in your car can rise almost 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes. Within 20 minutes, temps can rise almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit. The longer you wait the higher the temperature goes. At 60 minutes, the temperature in your vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. To put that in perspective, a 70 degree day can quickly become 110 degrees inside your vehicle!

To get a good visual on how quickly your parked car heats up, watch Dr. Ernie Ward demonstrate how dangerous this is for our pets:

What should you do if you see a dog locked in a hot car? Take down the car’s color, model, make, and license plate number. If possible, have the owner paged in nearby businesses, and call local police or humane enforcement officers.

Massachusetts is one of 22 states with laws about animals confined in parked vehicles. The law prohibits pet owners from leaving animals inside vehicles during extreme cold, heat or environmental conditions “that pose an adverse risk to the health or safety of the dog.” A bystander, in addition to animal control officials, law enforcement or firefighters, may enter the vehicle if “reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal.” Any action by a person or first responder would follow checking to see if the door was locked, calling 911, and making an effort to locate the owner. The person must stay with the animal until law enforcement arrives, and is immune from liability resulting from the animal’s removal. (blog.mass.gov, 2016)

Everyone who knows me, appreciates that I’m a huge fan of having my own dogs come everywhere with me in the car. They are my best buddies and co-pilots. Nevertheless, once the temps start to rise I prescribe to a love ‘em and leave ‘em philosophy. When it’s time to leave the house to run errands, I give Fletch and Scout a big kiss on the nose and leave them home to rest comfortably.