I can probably count on two hands the number of times I’ve called the police in my life. It would take most of those same fingers to count the number of times those calls have been to report a dog left alone in a car on a hot sunny day.
Each year an unknown number of dogs needlessly lose their lives while their owners run a few errands or shop. There is no accurate count because only 14 states have passed legislation making it illegal to leave an animal in an unattended vehicle. At this time, Kentucky and Indiana are not among the 14 states that have outlawed this practice.
I have to believe the vast majority of cases are the result of pet owners not realizing how quickly the temperature inside a car can rise – even on what seems like a mild day. Don’t take my word for it though. The dog-loving folks at Stanford University found that when it’s 72 degrees and sunny on the outside, the inside of a car can reach 116 degrees in one hour.
A 2007 study by San Francisco State University found that it takes only 20 minutes to heat the inside of a car to 109 degrees when it’s 80 degrees outside. They also found that cracking the windows – even all four of them – does relatively little to change rising temperatures inside a vehicle.
Your dog cools himself in two ways: by panting and through the sweat glands on the pads on his feet. If the air temperature in your car is 109 degrees, panting won’t cut it. With the sun shining down on those leather seats, there won’t be any help from the pads on his feet either. Any person who has worn shorts, jumped into a hot car and burned his or her legs on a hot seat can attest to that.
So now that you know not to leave your dog in the car for just a few minutes, what should you do when you find a dog left alone by someone who doesn’t understand the danger? The first step is to try to find the owner. If it’s obvious where the owner went, such as into a specific business, see if he or she can be paged. Give the car description and plate number.
If you do find the owner, avoid being confrontational. Instead, be educational. You’re much more likely to change their habits by being friendly and helpful. You can even refer them to the “My Dog Is Cool” campaign, which has a great website with lots of information including very inexpensive pamphlets and fliers that can do the educating for you. You’ll find information online at www.mydogiscool.com
If you can’t find the dog’s owner, you have a choice to make. If you feel the dog is in danger, the Louisville Metro Police Department will respond to a call for a dog left in a hot car. If you don’t call police, consider leaving a “My Dog is Cool” flier on their windshield. You can help educate one more dog owner and save one more pet from suffering or worse.
Category: The Pet Buddy
About the Author (Author Profile)
After 25 years as a journalist and television production executive I turned
my career 180 degrees and opened a pet care business; Home Buddies
Louisville. I couldn’t abandon journalism altogether though, so now I write
The Pet Buddy, a weekly column to help you improve the lives of your
four-legged family members. When I’m not hanging out with my wife Julie and
our rescued fur-kids you will find me on a bicycle racing for The
TwinSpires.com Cycling Team.