Summer is almost here, and with it, lots of adventures with our canine friends. Often those trips involve some driving in the car, so it never hurts to remind people of the dangers of leaving their pets in a locked car, even if it’s just for a short time. Here in the Northwest, it’s especially important to plan your outings carefully at this time of year, as our weather can be just a wee bit erratic! It might be cool and rainy when you leave your home in the morning, but 20 miles down the road, or 30 minutes later in the same place, the sun can come out and temperatures go up. Even if the outside air is pleasant, temperatures in a car can rise very quickly to a dangerous level. According to the US Humane Society, an outside temperature of 72° translates to about 116° in a closed car within an hour.
The American Veterinary Medical Association advises people not to leave their pets in a closed car if the outside temps are hotter than 62° or colder than 32°. As much as your dog may love to ride in the car, if you are just planning to do errands and you know some of the businesses don’t allow pets, leave your dog at home. If you do take your dog, plan ahead. There are many pet-friendly businesses, eateries, and hotels, and the numbers are rising each year. If you have someone with you, one person can run inside and the other can take the dog for a short stroll.
Sadly, hundreds of pets die in cars every year, because their owners didn’t realize how hot it can get in a car. People say they are just going to be a minute or two, but something distracts them, the line is longer than they thought, or they run into a friend. Temperatures can rise 20° in just ten minutes. On an 85° day, temps can reach 114° in 30 minutes and 125° within an hour. Cracking your window just doesn’t help much.
In July 2015, Washington State passed a law making leaving a pet in a car under dangerous conditions a civil offense. This includes situations in which the pet could be harmed by heat, cold, or lack of water or ventilation. It authorizes police or animal control personnel to break in to rescue the animal and clears them of liability. It does not make it legal for citizens to do the same. However, there are things you can do if you see a pet in a car and you are concerned. The best option is to call the proper authorities and/or go to the local businesses to try to track the owner down. There is a very good guide of what to do at www.preventivevet.com/hot-happens-fast. This guide provides detailed steps so you can assess the situation and provide the best assistance, as well as protect yourself (especially if you feel you must rescue the animal before help arrives) and the pet.