There’s a video that’s gone viral in recent weeks. It focuses on pets left in hot cars and shows veterinarian Ernie Ward sitting in a hot car as time ticks away and the temperature rises. Despite the attention that’s been given on the topic, people still leave their dogs in the car with the temperatures on the rise. It’s an act that could be deadly for your pet. (The video is below.)
What would you do if you encountered this situation? Would you give a voice to the dogs left in hot cars or pets left in hot cars or walk away? This weekend, several of my friends have stepped up to help dogs in need left behind in hot cars. They’ve shared their experiences on social media. In all the cases, the pet owners didn’t handle the situation well when confronted about the dangers of their dog locked in a car.
“I’d pulled into a parking space at the Credit Union at noon to deposit my paycheck,” says Therese Davis, one of my rescue connections from Warrenville. “Before I even had the car door fully opened, I heard muffled yelps, whimpers, cries and barks. I said - oh, hell no! NOT a dog left in the car!”
She checked out the maroon SUV parked next to hear and in the back of the vehicle was a big dog in a small wire crate. The front windows were down an inch or two. Under the intense midday sun, the dog was baking inside the car.
“I blew my cool and ran inside the bank and called out ‘who owns that dog left in that car in the parking lot? A man came strolling out from behind a partition with his fresh cup of coffee and admitted it was his dog,” adds Davis. “He went outside with me and claimed he’d only been inside for five minutes.”
Davis offered two options – she would call 9-1-1 and let the police handle it or the driver would sit in the car with the windows up for five minutes. He told Davis they were training the dog to get used to the small crate for an upcoming trip. He got in the car.
“You could hear the dog whimpering in the back of the car,” says Davis. “She was in distress. I told him I was speaking for the dog because she had no voice. He says the car wasn’t uncomfortable and he’d been in the car all of 30 seconds but was starting to get uncomfortable. His teenage daughter bounced out of the bank and said ‘this is so over, bye-bye!”
He was more concerned about telling his side of the story than checking on the well being of his own dog. Davis handled the situation the same way my other friends did that have spoken out on social media.
What should you do?
If you're running errands, leave your pet at home and don't risk leaving him or her in the car for even a few minutes. Temperatures in a car escalate very quickly on a warm day. The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago has created this chart to outline how quickly it gets hot. They also offer other information on their Website.
If you must have your pet with you, utilize drive through windows or shop at pet friendly stores that will welcome your pet. If you witness a pet left in a hot car, keeping your own cool and taking action is very important if you’re going to step up. It’s very important that you first check on the dog in the hot car or pet in the hot car to see how they are fairing. Timing is important as you can see from the chart above. Here are some tips.
- Find the owner. Do a quick check close to the vehicle to see if the owner is there. Go into neighboring businesses and have the store manager check for an owner in his or her business.
- Call animal control or 9-1-1. If the owner isn’t quickly located, call 9-1-1 or animal control. In many communities, animal control is part of the police department and one call will put you in contact with the right person.
- Talk to the owner. When the dog’s or pet’s owner comes back, get the dog out of the car and check the pet’s health. Have an open discussion about the dangers of leaving a pet in a car including nicely challenging them to sit in an enclosed car for 10 to 20 minutes.
Cooling a pet down
If the dog, cat or other animal left in a hot car is overheating, you should take action immediately to help out the pet in need before more damage is done. Here are some steps.
- Use rubbing alcohol on the pads of their feet. This is the quickest way to cool down dogs and cats since they sweat through the pads.
- Provide them with water. Get cold water in their mouth as quickly as possible to start helping them rehydrate.
- Cool them down. Use a cool fan, damp cloth or cold water to cool the pet down.
- Get the pet to a veterinarian. Even if you cool a pet down, it's important to have a vet check him or her out to make sure the pet doesn't need further medical care.
Davis went into the bank after the dog’s family left and was promptly hugged by bank employees for standing up for the dog. She’s going to send letters to the bank manager thanking the staff there for their support during the ordeal. Other friends of mine had a similar reaction at a Dairy Queen and another store lot – they talked to family members who seemed not to care about the danger.
Each year, there are many reports of dogs left in hot cars that aren’t rescued in time. Police have been known to break out a window to save animals. They are also not immune to making the same mistake. There have even been reports of police K-9s left in hot cars the past year (and cases where dogs died before they were rescued). It shows that even those that serve and protect may not be fully educated on the dangers of leaving pets (or people) in hot cars.
The pet’s owner is not the only one that occasionally reacts improperly. A Walmart near Ottawa, Canada, fired two employees last week for calling police on customers that left dogs in hot cars. Dr. Ernie Ward’s video is below.
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