With summer upon us, temperatures around the nation have been rising and nothing upsets me more than discovering a helpless pet locked in a hot car on a warm day - even if the windows are open. WHAT IN THE HECK are these people thinking!?! Living in Southern California, I spend more time running around grocery stores and strip malls trying to track down the clueless owners of these poor pets who then proceed to tell me they "...just ran into the store for a minute..." or "...left the windows open, so he should be fine..." My answer to them: No - your pet is not fine and here's why:
Point Number One: Even on a relatively milld 85 degree day, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of your car to reach 102 degrees - even when the windows have been left open an inch or two. Within 30 minutes a car's interior can actually reach a staggering 120 degrees. Your car is now an oven.
Point Number Two: Even if the temperature outside is a pleasant 70 degrees, the inside of your car may be as much as 20 degrees hotter. Parking your car in shade does not offer protection on a hot day because the sun moves.
Point Number Three: 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.
Do Something! What You Can Do
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, you, police, animal control agents, peace officers and others may be authorized to enter a vehicle by whatever means necessary to remove an animal. Learn more about the regulations in your area here >
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.
In my opinion, if the local law enforcement or animal welfare officer can't arrive quickly enough, I say get the dog out of the car - keeping in mind that you shouldn't put your life in danger either. As well, the ASPCA has created these handy Pets In Hot Cars flyers (pdf) which you can print out and distribute in your neighborhood to help educate people about the danger of leaving pets in hot cars.
I am going to keep these flyers stocked in my car glovebox - I encourage you to do the same!