You pull into the grocery store parking lot and you see a dog alone, locked in a car. It’s hot out, the dog looks miserable. You’ve seen this before, haven’t you? What do you do?
Pet owners have heard temperatures don’t have to be in the 100’s, like they are this summer, to cause distress or death for a pet left in a car. But, they’re still doing it. Celebrity Simon Cowell is mad and determined to do something about it. You can watch his ranting public service announcement “Don’t Let Your Dog Get Hot Under the Collar” here.
This week, Animal Rescue Corps posted a photo of a parking lot sign on their Facebook page that says, “Warning – Heat Kills Pets in Parked Vehicles.” It received over 115 comments, was shared by over 5,600 people and “Liked” by almost 1800 people – in 24 hours! It shows that leaving Fido in the car is a hot topic, literally!
For some reason, owners seem to think that dogs are tougher than they really are. The truth is, dogs aren’t physically capable of regulating their own temperature. Fur covered dogs have very few sweat glands. The only way they have of getting rid of excess body heat is by panting. That’s why you see dogs in hot cars panting so heavily. It only takes 10 minutes for a dog to die of heat stroke in a car.
The numbers are scary. In half an hour, about the average time it takes to run into the grocery store, the temperature in a car can soar 40 degrees, regardless of the windows being cracked or the car being parked in a shady spot. Since the car acts as a greenhouse, the heat trapped in the car is magnified quickly.
In 2010, there were 14 states with statutes addressing animals being left in cars in extreme temperatures. But, even if a state doesn’t ban it outright, most municipalities will prohibit it through their anti-cruelty laws. In Douglas County, Colorado, Officer Mike Kirkland explained, “Statutes prohibit leaving an animal in a car during extreme temperatures.” His advice is, “Anyone who witnesses this should immediately call 911, if the dog is in distress, or call the non-emergency number (303-660-7500 if in Douglas County) so that an officer or nearby animal control officer can be dispatched for assistance.”
Many people choose to take matters into their own hands. Some print out flyers like those found at My Dog is Cool or PETA’s “Dogs in Hot Cars” leaflets and leave them on the owner’s car, if they think the dog isn’t in immediate distress. Others jot down plate and car description information and go to the store, asking them to make an announcement. Most stores won’t refuse when reminded that this is their private property and, should a dog bake to death and die while they refuse to help, the negative publicity would certainly be damaging for them. (sample conversation follows this article)
Other people take a more aggressive approach. There’s the story of a man going into a restaurant and asking, in a very loud voice, if anyone owned the car with a dog in it. When no one answered, he said, “Well, I guess I’ll have to go break the window then.” With that, a woman jumped up and hurried out to the car and drove away with her dog.
A Florida animal rescuer goes the extra mile. She carries around a kit that contains tape to prevent shattered glass from flying when she breaks the window farthest away from the dog, a glass breaking tool, a thermometer in order to prove the temperature, a pad of paper and pen for witness comments and contact info, a bottle of water, a collapsible bowl and kennel lead for the dog, once she frees it.
Julie Mefli, of Leg Up Creative Solutions, became so concerned about this issue that she designed an eye catching poster reminding people how quickly heat stroke can happen. As summer heats up, she’s making sure it’s shared on many social media pages.
Be sure to watch the video in the sidebar produced by Red Rover. It shows what really happens to a chocolate lab left in a mall parking lot. But, don’t worry, the lab is made of chocolate so no animals were hurt in the making of their video.
The bottom line is simple – people must pay attention when they see animals locked in cars and take immediate action. The clock is already ticking. Signs of distress and heat stroke include intense, rapid panting, wide eyes, salivating, staggering and weakness. Advanced heat stroke victims will soon collapse and become unconscious with pale and dry gums.
If you see something, say something. Don’t walk by, thinking someone else will surely speak up. It’s up to you. Make the call to 911 and save a life. And make Simon Cowell happy – for a change!
SAMPLE CONVERSATION WITH A STORE MANAGER & DOG OWNER:
Ask to speak with a manager about an emergency situation. Nicely and calmly explain to him/her that there’s an animal confined to a vehicle in their parking lot. The animal could perish in a matter of minutes, you need the animal’s owner paged without further delay. Be pesky! Stay with the manager until this is done.
Wait for the owner, smile and be friendly. The dog’s life depends on it. Explain, if you have to, that a relative of yours just lost their dog in this hideous way and you’re so worried about their dog since he’s panting heavily. Could they please run out to the car?
People may get defensive or nasty. You stay nice and calm. If the owners don’t show up or dig in their heels, call the emergency number in your area. If they have no one to send or can’t be there for an hour, call 911. An animal’s life depends on it!
Don’t leave the scene until the situation is resolved. Don’t believe anyone who says, “we’ll be right out.” Make sure they do! Don’t be shy even though these situations may be uncomfortable for you. The animal is depending on your help, remember that and stay strong.