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Canines and hot cars a deadly combination Kate Davies | Sat, Feb 11 2012 12:00 PM

It never ceases to amaze me that most people are horrified at the idea of leaving a child unattended in a car on a hot day, but that some people don’t think twice about leaving a dog in a car.

There are no statistics available for how many dogs die from being left in cars, but roughly 30 to 40 children die in parked cars every year. Imagine how many more canine fatalities there are…

I’ve heard all the excuses: “I was only gone a moment,” “I didn’t realize the shopping would take as long as it did,” “I left the windows cracked,” “I parked in the shade.” There are no excuses for what essentially boils down to neglect at best and abuse at worst.

It is illegal in California to leave any animal in an unattended motor vehicle in any situation that may endanger their health; many people don’t seem to realize this. There is a $100 fine per animal for a first conviction, and if the animal suffers any bodily injury the fine increases to $500, imprisonment in a county jail for up to six months, or both.

Animals don’t handle heat in the same way that humans do. Dogs, for example, lose heat by panting. The temperature in a car parked in the shade on a 78 degree day can exceed 90 degrees, and reach 160 degrees if parked in the sun. Imagine sitting in a car wearing a fur coat in temperatures like that!

A couple of weeks ago I went grocery shopping. As I got out of my car I noticed a large black Labrador in the back seat of the car next to mine. He was panting heavily and his eyes were slightly glazed. None of the windows were open and it was easily 73 degrees that day. I looked around frantically to see if I could locate the owner, but couldn’t see anyone.

Hesitant to cause a scene in case the owner was on his or her way back, I waited for 15 minutes before finally calling the police. By the time they arrived, I was in terror for the dog’s life. And there was still no sign of the owner.
I can’t imagine what that person must have been thinking to leave their dog in the car on a hot day like that. That person was lucky that he or she didn’t come back to a dead pet. I am assuming that a slap on the wrist and a fine will make them reconsider doing it again though.

Please take care of your pets. They rely on you for everything, and assume that you will make the right decisions for them. Use common sense — if it’s hot in the car for you, it’s extremely hot in the car for them.

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