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Once again: Dog + Hot Car = Dead… Get It?

June 3, 2012 20 comments

I know. We dog people say it over and over again…Dogs do not belong in hot cars. Dogs do not belong in cars on hot days. Dogs do not belong in a car while you go shopping or out to eat, especially on hot days.

Last night my friend Kristin posted this story on Facebook:

What is wrong with people? I was walking Woodstock (a dog Kristin is caring for) earlier and saw two dogs inside a car in the direct sunlight. The driver’s side window was cracked open about 2 inches, and that was it. After I walked Woodstock back home, I got in the car and drove past. They were still there, panting away. It was just down the block from (name omitted) and Cafe Ena, so I knew the owners were most likely enjoying a nice, leisurely meal while their dogs were getting possible heat exhaustion. I talked to a server at (name omitted), who was kind enough to ask at the tables who owned a white Prius. When she told me that the family told her “oh, we have the window cracked,” I asked if I could talk to them. She wasn’t comfortable having me confront her customers, so I said loudly “Well, could you tell them that I’m going to call 311?” Suddenly a young woman sprang up and came to me, saying “I’m the owner and they have a window open.” I explained that they could die inside, because they were in the sun and the window was hardly opened and cars heat up FAST (up to 150 degrees within minutes). She said “We’re volunteers and we got our dogs from a rescue in Israel.” and I said “I’m sure you love them a lot, but this is still a dangerous situation.” She got in the car, opened all of the windows, and I left. I still wasn’t satisfied, but the sun was starting to go down and I’m hopeful that they learned something.

Yes. Volunteers caring for dogs rescued from Israel. I hate to think that a dog who had been rescued and brought here all the way from Israel would end up dying in a hot car because someone thought cracking one window would be sufficient for them. How sad.

Two years ago, I had my own sort of intervention with an owner who left her elderly Beagle in her car in the hot sun while she and her daughter went grocery shopping ay Byerly’s. Luckily, the dog was fine, but I was prepared to call police if she had stayed inside much longer.

That incident, and a few stories that appeared in the news around the same time, prompted me to consult a couple of awesome veterinarians before writing this piece – DOG + HOT CAR = DEAD… Get It?

At the time, I thought adding a little bit of shock value would be just the reality check some people needed to better understand the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. Maybe it’s time to pass it around again.

I hope you will read it and pass it on.

A side note to my friend Kristin:  Kudos Kristin. As always, I am impressed with your tenacity. I am not surprised that you would go out of your way to help an animal in need or distress. You have always been an animal’s best advocate. I think that’s why so many of them have sought you out over the years. They know you care about them. You are my hero.

Dogs: If they’re not cool, neither are you

May 30, 2010 6 comments

This past week I stopped at Petsmart to get a few things before heading home from my last dog walking appointment.

As I headed towards the store, I heard a distinct, but low, howl of a dog. “Oh no.” I thought, Please do not tell me someone left their dog in the car in 80 degree temperatures!” But sure enough, there sitting in a car (as it sat in the hot sun – no shade) was an elderly Beagle looking out the window for her mom or dad. I looked in to be sure she was okay. She seemed fine at the moment, but as I entered the store I kept eying the car and the dog through the store windows. Yes. All four windows were cracked, but despite what people think, this did not mean the dog was safe.

Immediately, I informed the clerk, who said she and her co-worker had noticed the dog as well, but had done nothing. I was so frustrated. How could someone leave a dog, especially an old one, in their car on a day that temperatures were so high? There’s so much information out there about the dangers of leaving a child or a pet in a hot car, and yet people continue to repeat the same mistakes.

I was in and out in a matter of minutes, and again stopped to check on the dog. She was now lying down, but did not appear to be in distress. Yet.

I wanted to leave. To go home and play with my own dogs, but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t leave this dog with the soulful eyes to sit in a hot car with no one there to help her if she started to go into distress. So I stood there. Watching. Waiting. I watched the dog. I watched the people going in and out of the grocery store, Petsmart and other stores. I even called the grocery store (next door to the Petsmart) to tell them to inform their customers that a dog was sitting in a hot car, in the sun, and to please come and get it. Nothing happened. No one came out.

I had already decided that at the 30 minute mark I would be calling the police. The dog had been in the car when I arrived and it was now 20 minutes later. How long had this dog been in the car? I kept monitoring the dog. Was she breathing abnormally? Was she showing signs of distress?

Finally, after about 25 minutes of waiting, out comes mom and daughter, the owners of this beautiful dog. I asked the woman if this was her dog and she replied “Yes”. I also asked her if she realized the danger she had put her dog in by leaving her in the car. Her response, “No. I thought it was cooler out today.” Then, I informed her that older dogs suffer from heat exhaustion much easier than younger dogs. I also told her she had been in the store for over 20 minutes (while she was grocery shopping), and she should check out the website “My Dog Is Cool” to better understand how hot a car can get in the sun… even with all four windows cracked open. I hope that this woman did just that.

My intent was not to shame her. Just from speaking with her, I could hear the concern in her voice and could see that she never intended to put her dog in harm’s way. But, that is exactly what she did.

– She thought it was a much cooler day (than the day before) – What may seem cool to us is not cool to a dog, especially in a car sitting in the sun.
– She left all four windows open for ventilation – Unfortunately, this does not guarantee you won’t kill your dog from heatstroke. This page on the My Dog Is Cool website shows how hot this lady’s car got in the time I was out there. Look at the 2nd diagram labeled “Day 2” (this is Day 2 of the experiment when all 4 windows of the car were left cracked open). With an outside temp of 84 degrees, the inside of the car was already 98 degrees, at 9:15 AM in the morning. When I came upon the Beagle it was already late afternoon and the temp was about the same. The car was likely hotter than that since it was being hit by the afternoon sun. Not a good situation for this dog.
– She was only gone for 30-40 minutes. That is long enough to kill a dog. No joke.

Look, I hate confronting people. I am uncomfortable with it in every way, but if no one says anything, then what happens to the dog? Or, the child? I know we’ve become a society of conflict-avoiders. We don’t want to piss anyone off or risk getting hit or attacked, but perhaps by getting involved and educating those around us, we can make a difference.

It’s so easy to think you’re only leaving your dog for just a few minutes, but those few minutes really can be the difference between life and death. I encourage you to get involved. Educate. Share this website with all your friends and family, especially those who have children or pets. The more we can do to educate people, the less dogs or children that will need to die from something so simple as a lack of knowledge.

Thanks.

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