The dog was an older beagle mix, grey muzzled with slightly-clouded eyes. It was panting heavily and salivating. While I stood watching it, the dog alternated between standing with its front paws on the armrest between the front seats, climbing down into the shaded spot on the floor in front of the passenger seat, standing on the back passenger arm rest with its head tipped up out the open window, and lying on its side on the back seat. Its sides were heaving as it panted; it was obviously hot and in distress.
I hoped the owners would be right out, so waited eight minutes before I called the non-emergency number of the local police. I was on the phone with the dispatcher when the couple approached their car about two minutes after I placed the call.
The woman saw me standing behind her car as I was talking to the dispatcher. She said, “Why are you looking at my license plate?!”
What, this one?
I told the dispatcher the owners were just coming up to their car. I turned to the woman and said in a low, calm tone, “I am reading your license plate to the police. I called to let them know there was a distressed animal in a hot car here.”
The woman snapped, “We were only in there five minutes!” I replied that I had been next to their car for ten minutes at this point.
She said, “The back windows were both down!”
I said, “M’am, do you have any idea how quickly a car reaches dangerous temperatures for an animal on a hot day like this, even with the windows down?”
DID YOU KNOW…
When it’s 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car — even with the windows cracked — can soar to 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in just half an hour. On hotter days, the temperature will climb even higher. Outside temperatures in the 70s can be dangerous, as well. Source
The dispatcher took my contact information and ended the call. The patrolman arrived just after that and came over to the passenger side of my car (the opposite side of my car from the couple’s) and leaned down to talk to me. He asked me what happened, and I told him what I’d seen.
While he was talking to me, the woman yelled, “Both the back windows were down!” The officer glanced her way and said in a flat tone of voice, “I’m not talking to you right now. You’ll get your chance.” He leaned back down and said to me, “You can’t control who has kids or pets.”
Can I just say, I *heart* that officer? When I left, he was walking over to their car. I hope he educated them about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car. I hope he encouraged them to soak their dog down with cold water as soon as possible. In the end, there wasn’t anything else I could do.
I know I made a couple of enemies by my actions today (woof, if looks could kill!), but how could I keep silent when faced with an animal suffering in the heat? Several times each summer, we read stories about people whose children die due to being left in hot cars. Sometimes we hear about dogs that die from the same cause. It even happened recently with a K9 officer whose partner left him in the patrol car.
On a hot day, a car reaches uncomfortably high temperatures even if you park in the shade and have all your windows down. It amazes me that some people lack the common sense to realize it’s not safe to leave a dog in the car on warm days. These same people would never choose to sit in their car, on a sunny, 87-degree day (that’s the temperature in the shade, mind you), out in a parking lot.
What if, in addition to that, they were forced to wear fur coats and lacked the ability to sweat and cool off by evaporation? This is exactly the treatment to which they subject their dogs.
I guess the only thing we can do is report the situations as we see them and try to educate people about the issue. The website, mydogiscool.com is a tremendous resource for the latter. Give it a good read through and print off a few of their free educational posters and fliers in PDF format. This one gets the point across:
This double-sided brochure contains facts every dog owner should know:
If you can’t print them yourself, you can order them for $3.00/25 pieces. Bulk pricing is available. See the website for details. It might be just as cheap to take them to a local copy-print place. Who knows, if the owner’s a dog lover, you might even get a discounted rate.
However you get them off the screen and into your hands, keep some in your car’s glove compartment for those times you see a dog left in a hot car. Go out on a limb and possibly save the life of a dog. If the owner comes out before you leave, great! Hand him a flier. At the very least, tuck a flier under the windshield wiper on the car as you make a call to the police.
Please spread the word. People don’t mean to put their pets’ lives in jeopardy. What they don’t know could cost them their beloved family member.