On June 30, a Nottinghamshire police officer left two German Shepherds alone in his police car. The poor dogs were baked alive as temperatures inside the car likely soared above 100ºF. Both the RSPCA and the Nottinghamshire police department are investigating the incident, but the officer has not even been suspended yet. He may, however; face criminal charges under the Animal Welfare Act. (You can read about the incident here.)
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for dogs to die in hot cars during the summer months. Many people leave their animals unattended in parked cars while they stop at the store or run an errand, thinking they’ll “only be a few minutes.” That’s all it takes for a car to turn into a virtual oven, even if it’s parked in the shade.
On a 73°F day, the inside of a parked car can reach around 100ºF in 10 minutes and 120ºF in 30 minutes. Dogs can only cool themselves by panting and sweating through their paw pads, so high temperatures are especially dangerous for them. They can succumb to heatstroke—which can result in brain damage or death— in just 15 minutes.
That’s why it’s important to act quickly whenever you see a dog in a hot car. If the car is closed and you cannot safely get the dog out, jot down the car’s color, model, make, and license plate number. If it is obvious which building the dog’s guardian is in, go inside and urgently have the owner of the car paged.
This might seem awkward, but the dog’s life could depend on it—be persistent and do whatever is necessary to get him or her out of the car as quickly as possible. (However unpleasant the situation may seem for you, it cannot compare to being baked alive in a closed car.) Politely and promptly explain that you fear the dog’s life is in danger. If necessary, offer to wait with the dog outside the building while the dog’s guardian finishes his or her business. You can also call local humane authorities and/or police; it’s their responsibility to respond to situations like this.
Once the dog is out of the car, get him or her to shade immediately and call a veterinarian if you see symptoms of heatstroke, such as restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, or lack of coordination. You can help lower the dog’s body temperature gradually by giving him or her water to drink, applying a cold towel or ice pack to the head, neck and chest, or immersing the dog in tepid (not cold) water.
Of course, it’s wise to work to prevent these dangerous situations from happening in the first place. Please order PETA’s “Don’t Let Your Dog Get Hot Under the Collar” leaflets, which can be placed on vehicles to remind people never to leave unattended animals inside.
You can also help spread the message by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and by contacting PETAPSA@peta.org or 757-622-7382 to find out how to get PETA’s precautionary public service announcement starring Simon Cowell aired on your local television stations. And for more tips on keeping dogs safe and cool, see www.HelpingAnimals.com. The dog days of summer don’t need to be deadly for dogs!
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