“I was only gone a few minutes.”
“I just had a couple of stops to make.”
Every year, pets suffer and die needlessly when their guardians make the mistake of leaving them in a parked car — even for “just a minute” — while they run an errand.It can’t be said often enough: never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle during the summer. Parked cars are deathtraps for pets. Why? Animals don’t sweat; they must rely on panting to remove heat from the body. High temperatures make it difficult or impossible for pets to cool themselves and heatstroke can be serious or even fatal. Young, elderly and overweight animals are most at risk, as are pets with thick or dark coats.
Some people still don’t realize that temperatures can rise alarmingly fast inside a parked vehicle. Even on mild days or in the shade, car windows act as a greenhouse, causing temperatures inside the car to soar quickly to dangerous levels. Leaving windows partly open has little effect on how hot it is inside the car. Leaving the engine running and air conditioning on is also risky, since pets have died as a result of a malfunctioning system (not to mention being stolen along with the car).On a 23C day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 34C very quickly, and on a 32C day the interior temperature can reach as high as 43C in just 10 minutes! At these temperatures, your pet can suffer severe heatstroke, irreversible brain and organ damage or die. Severe discomfort can occur even sooner.
If you want to know what it’s like for your pet, put on a coat and sit in an enclosed car on a warm day. You’ll quickly see how distressed pets feel in those conditions.If these numbers aren’t enough to convince you to leave your pet at home in warm weather, maybe this fact will. Thanks to new regulations in Nova Scotia, people who leave their pet in an unattended vehicle in conditions that cause distress will be fined $697.50. What should you do if you see a pet unattended in a parked car?
• Assess the situation. Signs that a pet may be in distress from overheating include: exaggerated panting, rapid breathing, drooling, weakness/muscle tremors, lack of coordination, inability to get up, vomiting, convulsions or collapse.
• Note relevant information:
— Vehicle’s description (make, model, licence plate, colour, exact location)
— Pet’s description (species, size, colour, breed if known)
— Try to locate the owner. Ask the nearest stores/businesses to make an announcement for the owner to return to their car.
• Call 911. Stay by the vehicle until the owner or police arrive.
• While you understandably may have the urge to break the vehicle’s window to free the distressed pet, you could be liable for damages. Wait for the police. They have the skills and tools to remove the pet safely, to protect themselves, the animal and the public.
What can you do to help once the distressed pet is removed from the vehicle?
• Gently move the pet to a cool shady place or an air-conditioned building.
• Let him drink small amounts of cool water.
• Apply cool wet towels to the groin area, stomach, chest and paws. Do not use ice or cold water.
• If the pet is showing signs of heatstroke, he should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Please remember: while you may think you’re making your pet happy by bringing it along for the ride, you could very well be jeopardizing his life. If you plan to run an errand (no matter how quickly) that your pet can’t accompany you on, keep him safe and cool at home. Also, please spread the word: No more excuses, no more pets in hot cars!