Archive for Tuesday, May 12, 2009

In hot car, ’just a minute’ can be deadly for dogs

May 12, 2009


Calling in an animal welfare alert

What if you see that someone else has left a dog in a hot car?

Humane officers say that in many situations it is perfectly fine to leave a dog in a car, but if you have any doubt about the temperature or whether the animal is in distress, don’t hesitate to call. Zita Macinanti, director of Humane Law Enforcement at the Washington Humane Society, says that rather than take a chance, “It’s better to waste our time.”

If you don’t know who to call, officers say it’s OK to call 911.

When you call, remember:

• Leave contact information in case officers need more information; being able to contact you can make all the difference in finding the car in time. They will never give out your name, so you don’t need to fear repercussions.

• If you can’t stay, try to find someone local, like a clerk in a nearby store, to notify of the situation so they can direct officers. If you can’t leave a phone number, ask if you can provide the number of the store.

• If you see the owner return and the car leaves, call officers back and let them know so they can attend to other animals that need their help.


If you’ve ever left your dog in the car for “just five minutes” on a summer day, the officers of the Washington Humane Society want you to hear some cautionary tales.

“They all say the same thing: I never thought that this would happen,” says Mitchell Battle, deputy director of humane law enforcement at the Washington Humane Society. “I was only going to be gone for two minutes.”

But just running inside for a quick errand can be deadly to your pet — even if the weather isn’t all that hot.

In one fatal incident Battle responded to, the temperature was only in the 70s. A woman stopped at home, parked in the shade and came out after what she said was 15 minutes. By the time officers got there, the shade had moved, turning the car into what officer Eve Russell calls “a solar-powered Easy-Bake oven.”

Everyone’s opened a car door and been amazed by how much hotter it is than outside — but you may not realize exactly how hot a car can get. Check out the numbers at the Web site, a program of United Animal Nations. When it’s 72 degrees, a car in direct sun can reach an internal temperature of 116. Even in the shade, a car can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter than outdoors, and cracking the window has almost no effect.

Veterinarian Cate Rinaldo, a volunteer with United Animal Nations, points out that dogs don’t have sweat glands all over their bodies like humans do, so the main way they can cool off is by panting, which isn’t very efficient.

Once a dog’s body temperature gets over about 106 — normal temperature is around 101 — the result is “everything from nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, systemic organ failure, and it happens fast, within a matter of minutes,” she says.

Summer is also vacation season, and the Washington officers are often called to cases where people travelling with their dogs tried to use the car to extend their stay by a few hours.

“They check out of their hotel at noon and they still want to go to the zoo or a museum, and they leave Fluffy in the car,” says officer Ann Russell.

Remember that one more museum isn’t worth the risk to your pet’s life — and that cars are not the only place where dogs can get overheated. Rinaldo says that before she was a vet and knew of the dangers, one of her dogs collapsed from heat exhaustion after playing off-leash on a 75 degree day.

That dog survived, but not all are so lucky. One 90 degree day in the San Bernadino mountains, Andy Hoodward of Orange, Calif., was flagged down by a couple carrying their dog in a backpack.

“The woman explained that they had set out hiking in the morning but a couple of miles in, the dog had become lethargic, unresponsive and would neither walk nor drink,” says Hoodward.

The couple were also in bad shape, and Hoodward drove them to a ranger’s station, but it was too late for the dog, which died on the trip.

And officers say anyone can be the victim of inattention or miscalculation. Officer Ann Russell tells of one woman who worked with autistic children and was a volunteer guide dog puppy raiser — “the most responsible person you can imagine,” she says. In an emergency with one of the children, the woman accidentally left a puppy in a car and it died.

Even indoors, it can get too hot for some animals. Battle tells of an elderly, overweight beagle that died of heat exhaustion in his own home; sadly, the house did have central air conditioning but the owners hadn’t left it on since there were no people home.

Be especially careful if you confine your dog to a crate or one area of the house and he’s not free to seek a cooler spot. If you leave your dogs outside, even on a patio or deck, make sure they have shade all day and remember that the sun moves. Use a tarp or awning to shade the spot, and perhaps reconsider whether your dogs might be happier indoors.

“Go out there barefoot and step on the concrete where your dogs are,” says Battle. “It’s not as comfortable as you think it is.”


gr 9 years ago

If you are not taking your dog to for from the vet, why are you taking the dog in your car?

Just a potential for cruelty. If it is not in itself.

jonas_opines 9 years ago

gr, are you suggesting that the only place we should take dogs is to the vet, or are you suggesting that we should walk them everywhere else? Neither of those options seem to make a whole lot of sense.

jonas_opines 9 years ago

Why do those not make a whole lot of sense?

I guess I'd start with a lack of demonstrable harm. . . .

I'd rather not have a Who's Line Game at any rate. If you'd care to respond with more than just another potentially rhetorical question, that would be great. I know you don't like to do that, but it would indeed be helpful.

jaywalker 9 years ago

Gotta side with jonas here, gr. And 'potential for cruelty'? That seems oxymoronic. Perhaps 'negligence' was what you're looking for.
My dog goes with me everywhere. Found her in the bayou's of Louisiana and she was in my truck every day for a month. Not saying leaving a dog in a car isn't dangerous, just gotta use your head.

jonas_opines 9 years ago

So, just a tidbit to incite ill-will, and no attempt at justification, support, or even acknowledgment? Sigh. I guess you haven't changed since the last time, have you, gr?

gr 9 years ago

Sigh. I guess you haven't any more patience than the last time, have you, jonas?

Any reason I should be constantly glued to the computer screen hanging on your every word?


"I guess I'd start with a lack of demonstrable harm… ."

Which does seem to bring up past issues.

Do you think there are justifiable reasons to do something if it shows no harm - either solely or not? What reasons are there for someone to bring a dog with them everywhere they go for a month?

Potential for cruelty exists because, as the article brought out, everyone is just going to be gone for "two minutes" which soon becomes an extended time. Bringing a dog with you for no good reason increases the probability for harm even if you "use your head". There's always going to be some occasion where you have a lapse in memory, justification, or delayed beyond your control.

So, just because there is no "demonstrable harm", does not justify doing something for no reason.

iplaysupernintendo 9 years ago

Very helpful and informational article!

My dog and I travel together in the car a lot. I'm not sure how someone can own a dog, and only take it in the car when going to the vet's office. You must live within walking distance of everything!

jonas_opines 9 years ago

I've found, gr, that if I don't bait you, I get nothing. I'll agree that it's unfortunate.

For the rest, you sure did add a Whole Lot of qualifiers there, didn't you? Which begs the question, I suppose, of why you didn't include such nuance in your original post?

gr 9 years ago

jonas, you're "baiting" me?

No "qualifiers" included. Original post stands as stated.


"You must live within walking distance of everything!"

You sound as if your dog is physically attached to you.
Just leave the dog home.

jonas_opines 9 years ago

To suggest that your first post equals your middle one is insulting my intelligence. If you think that your first post is somehow justified, then justify it without using all the extra qualifiers in your second. Show that there is never a reason to take a dog anywhere but the vet, and how it is cruelty to do so, or even on its own a potential for cruelty. Don't throw in the extras, like leaving the dog in the car, just being gone for 2 minutes, etc. Those are not necessary or intrinsic parts of taking your dog somewhere.

Seriously, do you spin like this on purpose, or is it out of your control, as just a basic nature of your being?

gr 9 years ago

What qualifier did I make saying there IS a reason to take a dog anywhere but to the vet?

jonas_opines 9 years ago

Geez louise. Thanks for at least showing me that it is entirely intentional. But if you can point to where I said that you made that qualifier, I'll answer you. Of course, since I didn't suggest that, it's probably a moot point.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons to take a dog somewhere other than the vet.

gr 9 years ago

"If you think that your first post is somehow justified, then justify it without using all the extra qualifiers in your second. Show that there is never a reason to take a dog anywhere but the vet,"

You said justify it without the qualifiers, and detailed that request by asking to show there is never a reason.

Do you just like being cantankerous or is this just more of your "baiting"?

jonas_opines 9 years ago

"You said justify it without the qualifiers, and detailed that request by asking to show there is never a reason."

Which you have not done. Either one.

"Do you just like being cantankerous or is this just more of your “baiting”?"

It's a natural result of your deceitful posting style, gr. You should just get used to it.

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