July 10, 2018

Leaving Pets in Hot Cars is a Lethal Issue

a dog in a car

By ASPCA President & CEO Matt Bershadker 

Last month in New York City, a 12-year-old Yorkshire Terrier died after being accidentally locked in a car for hours. It was still morning—and not even summer—but the dog suffered from extreme heat-related injuries and, after being freed by NYPD officers, needed to be humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. 

These accidents happen too often with consequences too tragic to be ignored or written off. In 2017 alone, animals who died after being trapped in cars include a Chihuahua in Florida, a Poodle in Connecticut, a French Bulldog in California, and a black Labrador in Calgary. And these are just the stories that made the news; thousands of animals suffer the same painful fate every year.

Many pet owners think this could never happen to them, so they bring their pets along on errands and leave them “for a minute,” or forget about them entirely. They don’t realize that these seemingly innocuous decisions can put their beloved companions in grave danger.

What all owners must understand is that a car is essentially a metal box. On an 85-degree day, interior temperatures can climb over 100 degrees in only ten minutes and can jump to 120 degrees in half an hour. Even in cooler weather, the inside of a car may be as much as 20 degrees hotter than the outdoors—easily reaching 90 degrees on a 70-degree day. A shady parking spot, bowl of water or even an open window are insufficient measures to counteract the deadly effects of these temperatures. 

It’s hard enough to imagine ourselves being trapped in a hot car, but pets have special challenges. Dogs and cats cool off primarily by panting—not by sweating—and their systems can become overwhelmed quickly. The rising temperature increases their heart and respiratory rates and can cause seizures as well and harm to vital organs resulting in permanent injury or death. Every moment that passes and every increase in temperature dramatically decreases an animal’s chances for survival. 

If you own an animal, please think twice before bringing your pet along for a ride that includes stops and errands. If you must travel with your pet, do not leave them unattended and consider setting up reminders of their presence, such as a leash or note in the passenger’s seat.

If you see a distressed animal in a vehicle, try to locate the owner, call 911 and stay nearby until help arrives. More than half of U.S. states recognize the severity of this problem and have enacted laws that prohibit leaving an animal in a vehicle in dangerous conditions—including hot weather—or that legally protect people who rescue a distressed animal from a vehicle.

This summer, whether you’re traveling with a pet or not, please be extra alert to animals in distress—your vigilance can save a life. Learn more about summer pet safety here and download our infographic to remind your family and friends about the dangers of leaving animals in hot cars. 

Originally published on Petful.