Would you wear a wool sweater or a coat on a 95-degree day? How about 80, or even 70 degrees?
Now imagine sitting in your car on those hot days, all bundled up… and sweating! Do you think having the windows cracked – or even wide open for that matter – would help to keep you cool? A car traps heat like a furnace. It can become 30 degrees hotter inside the vehicle than outside in fewer than 20 minutes.
The sad truth is that hundreds of pets die each year as a result of being left unattended in scorching vehicles. If you are in any way like me, then you enjoy your dog’s company and hate leaving them alone. But, on days when the temperature is projected to reach 70 degrees or higher, your dog is safest in your home with the cool breeze of a fan or air conditioning.
You also risk your dog being stolen when left unattended. Criminals looking to make a quick buck will often jump at the opportunity. The same is true if you “secure” your dog to a parking meter or bike rack while you’re in the store. Please don’t let this happen to your dog. Many stores will let you walk or carry your dog inside for that quick errand; just ask first and you might just be surprised. So, unless every stop you make that day will be at a pet-friendly establishment where your dog accompanies you in, please leave them home! Just pick up a nice toy or treat to show them how much you missed them. Trust me – your dog will thank you!
What to do if you spot a dog alone in a vehicle (windows open or not):
- Determine the condition of the dog (see signs of heatstroke below).
- Record the vehicle’s license plate number, make, model, and color.
- Locate the owner; ask the nearby businesses to announce it over the loudspeaker.
- Report the incident to the local animal control or police department if the owner cannot be found or is not willing to remove the dog – ANIMAL CRUELTY IS A CRIME IN MOST STATES PUNISHABLE BY IMPRISONMENT AND/OR FINES.
- Stay with the dog until help arrives. It might be frowned upon, but I’d break a window to save a dog… just saying.
The signs of heatstroke in a dog:
- Excessive panting and drooling
- Anxiousness or whimpering
- Abnormal gum color (darker red or even purple)
- Lack of bodily strength or collapse
Remember, heatstroke can be deadly! If a dog shows any sign of heatstroke, it is critical to cool and calm them. Seek shade or head indoors and apply cold, wet towels, refreshing them every few minutes. Do NOT shock the dog in an ice bath. Instead, you should run cool water over the dog's body and wipe it quickly. The dog should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible for expert care.
Other helpful tips:
- Avoid walking your dog on pavement when it is above 85 degrees. You can also help protect their paw pads with dog boots or balm.
- Always provide clean, cool water for your dog regardless of the season.
- Store the local animal control numbers of your city/town and those you frequent (work, relatives, friends, shopping plazas, etc.).
- Spread the word by hanging posters at school or work (where permitted) and asking local businesses to do the same.
- Ask parking lot security and attendants to locate the owner or notify police if a pet is alone in a hot car.
- If you’re a business owner, you have a better chance of accomplishing this next task than most of us do: Make announcements on your loudspeaker periodically on hot days just reminding customers not to leave their pets (and God-forbid, their children) in the car unattended.
- If you are aware of or suspect animal abandonment, cruelty or neglect such as dog fighting, starvation, inhume or inhabitable conditions, REPORT THE CRIME to your local police and animal control. Massachusetts Statute § 77 covers cruelty to animals, which includes, “(if the pet is) deprived of necessary sustenance… (if the owner) unnecessarily fails to provide it with proper food, drink, shelter, sanitary environment, or protection from the weather… (the owner) shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 ½ years or by a fine of not more than $2,500, or by both such fine and imprisonment”.
Thank you for helping to keep your community’s pets safe!