Rising Temperatures Pose Danger to Pets Left in Cars
“Research has shown that the internal vehicle temperature can rise thirty-five degrees in as little as a half hour when outside temperatures approach one hundred degrees,” according to Christian D. Malesic, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association.
“Rising temperatures, humidity, and stagnant air flow cause a greenhouse effect quickly placing the lives of animals in danger if not removed from the adverse conditions.”
Dr. Kim Williams, of Clarion Animal Hospital, noted the same issue.
“People don’t realize how quickly the air temperature rises in a car,” Dr. Williams told exploreClarion.com.
“If it’s 70 degrees outside, in 20 minutes the car can be at 100 degrees, and that is even with the windows open.”
According to Dr. Williams, pets being confined in hot cars is one of several preventable causes of heat stroke they see, along with animals being confined to outdoor cages in the hot sun, or being tied outside without access to shade or water.
She also noted that some dogs, including “squished face” breeds like Pugs and Boston Terriers, long-haired breeds like Golden Retrievers, and older dogs, are more susceptible to heat stroke than others.
“The result of that, if a pet can’t get out of the hot temperature, once their body gets over 105 degrees, we can see disorientation, then collapse, shock, bleeding. They can start to have bloody diarrhea or begin vomiting blood, and they can go on to have seizures, coma, and death.”
Dr. Williams said their practice in Clarion has dealt with pets with severe heat stroke before, utilizing ice baths and other cooling techniques to bring their temperatures down, but said that the rate of success isn’t great.
“The success rate, if an animal is in the stage where they are showing medical symptoms, they say it’s 50% mortality rate. Half might make it, but half won’t, and that’s with vet care.”
Prevention is the most important thing. Confining an animal to a small space—like a car on a hot day—is never a good idea. However, on extremely hot days, it may be best to keep animals mostly indoors, and if they are out, make sure they have adequate shade and water at all times, according to Dr. Williams.
The good news is that animals in Pennsylvania will have an extra level of protection from the extreme heat of cars this year with a new law that has been put in place. While owners are always encouraged to keep their animals safe and away from hot cars while unattended, this will be the first summer that the new law empowers law enforcement agencies to save animals in cars if owners fall short of their care responsibilities.
In October of last year, Governor Wolf signed into law The Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, which allows law enforcement officers to break into an unattended vehicle to rescue an animal left alone, if they believe the animal to be in imminent danger, after a reasonable search for the car owner.
Act 104 of 2018, formerly known as “The Hot Car Bill,” provides legal authority with civil immunity to animal control and humane officers, emergency responders, and law enforcement officers who remove unattended animals from vehicles when they’re in danger from heat or cold.
“The law protects animals in the heat of the summer, but also in the cold of the winter,” Christian Malesic explained. “In fact, any animal in distress can be rescued under the protection of this law during any season, even for issues such as being tangled in their leash or having their head stuck in a cracked-open window.”
In addition to making a reasonable effort to find the vehicle owner prior to entering the vehicle, the person who performed the rescue must leave a note with contact information and the location at which the animal can be retrieved.
If you see an animal that may need help, call 9-1-1 and stay with the vehicle until they arrive.
“Do not attempt to free the animal yourself,” cautions Malesic. “Although Act 104 gives immunity to law enforcement officers, it does not give immunity to you. So, the vehicle owner could take civil action against you for your actions.
“It is very important to note this is not a Good Samaritan law.”
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