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Cruelty Alert: Pets Suffering from Heatstroke in Parked Cars

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Most dog-lovers know about the dangers of leaving pets in parked cars during warm weather, but do you know what steps to take when you see a dog locked into someone else’s car? Even if the windows are cracked, the temperature inside the car can become deadly within minutes. Because a dog’s physiology is different from a human’s, he cannot sweat or regulate his body temperature as effectively as we do, so you may very well be saving his life if you know how to intervene. Here’s an article from the ASPCA with helpful tips.

As many parts of the country struggle with recent heat waves, we’ve all seen the disturbing news reports of pets, mostly dogs, dying from heatstroke as a result of being left in parked cars. Just last week, a Bronx, NY, man left his Maltese in his van—with the windows cracked—while he went for a swim at a state park. The temperature inside the van climbed to 140 degrees and despite intervention by park police, the dog didn’t survive.

Even on a relatively mild 85-degree day, it takes only 10 minutes for the interior of a car to reach 102 degrees—and within 30 minutes, the inside of the car can be a staggering 120 degrees. Leaving windows open a few inches does not help. Furthermore, when it comes to the body’s ability to cool itself, canine physiology is vastly different from ours. While humans have sweat glands all over our bodies that help regulate our body heat, dogs cool down mostly by panting, which is much less efficient than sweating. In only a short amount of time, a dog with a high body temperature can suffer critical damage to his nervous system, heart, liver and brain.

At least 14 states and many municipalities have enacted laws to address the problem of animals left in cars in extreme temperatures. Under these laws, police, animal control agents, peace officers and others may be authorized to enter a vehicle by whatever means necessary to remove an animal. “I would recommend that if your state doesn’t have a specific law addressing animals left in hot cars that you still call law enforcement, because it may be considered animal cruelty under your state or local laws,” says Jill Buckley, Senior Director of ASPCA Government Relations & Mediation.

If you’re out and about on a hot day and see an animal alone in a car, you should immediately try to find the car’s owner. If you have no luck, or if the owner refuses to act, contact local law enforcement and/or animal control.

“The important thing is to get the dog out of the car, keeping in mind that you shouldn’t put your life in danger, either!” says Buckley, who keeps a few copies of the ASPCA’s Pets in Hot Cars flyer (pdf) in her glovebox to give out when appropriate. Please print and distribute these flyers (pdf) in your neighborhood to help educate people about the danger of leaving pets in hot cars.

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