Heat deadly for pets in vehicles

Leaving a dog in the car during hot weather could put them within 10 minutes of disaster.

Leaving a dog in the car during hot weather could put them within 10 minutes of  disaster.

That’s all it might take to give your pet an extreme case of heat exhaustion or heat-stroke, says the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The temperature in a parked car, even in the shade with the windows partly open, can rapidly reach a level that will seriously harm or even kill your pet.

On summer days, the air and upholstery in a vehicle can heat up to high temperatures that make it impossible for pets to cool themselves, something they do by panting and by releasing heat through their paws.

And if common sense and compassion aren’t enough to encourage you to leave your pet in a cooler place, consider this: Under the law, people who leave their dogs in a hot car can be charged under the province’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. This legislation allows for up to $75,000 in fines, up to five years in jail and a lifetime ban on owning animals, depending on the circumstances, says Marcie Moriarty, general manager of cruelty investigations with the BC SPCA.

There are only 26 special provincial constables in the province, who respond to some 7,000 cruelty-to-animal cases a year.

“And under the Cruelty to Animals Act only these constables and police have the authority to enter a property other than a dwelling house without a  warrant to save an animal that’s in what’s defined as critical distress,” says Moriarty. “If you’re a citizen and if you break a window, you are breaking into someone’s vehicle.”

That includes SPCA shelter staff, says Moriarty, who recommends people who see a distressed animal in a vehicle  call the non-emergency police phone number in their community.

She also offers the following suggestions for cooling the animals’s body temperature down: If the vehicle is in a hot parking lot,  take down the licence plate number and go to the nearest store to ask staff to page the person, then spray the dog with water and try to create shade for the animal.

Moriarty understands well the helpless anger that can occur at the sight of an animal who is suffering.

“It’s getting frustrating, it’s not rocket science,” she says, noting people return to a hot car after 10 minutes and immediately open all the windows and turn on the air conditioning. “Well guys, guess what? It’s hotter for your animals.”

Moriarty points out the SPCA gets no government funding and has to rely on donations to fund the special constables, who travel throughout the province.

“It’s all about prevention of cruelty, advocacy and speaking for animals on the local and broad scale,” she says, noting that while no constables are located in Salmon Arm, they do visit the area to do about 7,000 seizures, warrants and charges every year.

To discover the symptoms of  heat-stroke or heart stroke in a dog and emergency measures to provide, visit www.spca.bc.ca.

If you see a dog in a car on a hot day that you believe may be in trouble, call the Salmon Arm police detachment at 250-832-6044.