“It Was Just for a Minute!”
Sadder words were never spoken.
Because an errand meant to take that proverbial minute is 60 seconds too long when a dog is left unattended in a hot car.
Because, even on mild summer days, with a car parked in the shade and the windows cracked, the INSIDE temperature can rapidly reach dangerous levels.
Because a car acts like a greenhouse, trapping and magnifying the sun’s strength and heat. Both the air and upholstery temperature can rise so rapidly that a dog can’t cool down.
Because a dog’s normal body temperature is about 102° F. Raise it briefly by only two degrees, and heat exhaustion, brain damage, even death may occur.
Because, unlike humans, dogs don’t sweat. They can only cool themselves by panting and releasing heat through their paws.
Despite repeated warnings in the media, flyers distributed by animal welfare groups, and word of mouth, countless animals still die needlessly each year from heatstroke. Despite the axiom that one person can’t make a difference, in this type of situation, one person can make ALL the difference. And that person may be YOU.
If you see a dog in distress inside a car parked on the street or in a parking lot, note the make and model of the car, as well as its license plate number. Call the police, your local ASPCA branch, Humane Society or animal control immediately.
(As of 2019, thirty-one states and the District of Columbia had laws that concern companion animals left unattended in parked vehicles under dangerous conditions. In some states, leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle under dangerous conditions is a crime. Many states also give immunity to law enforcement or other first responders who forcibly enter vehicles to rescue animals. Currently AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, IN, KS, LA, MA, OH, OR, TN, VT and WI have laws giving civil immunity to any individuals who break into vehicles to remove pets in imminent danger, provided they meet other conditions under these laws.)
Watch the dog for the more obvious signs of heatstroke: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting); an anxious or staring expression; restlessness; excessive salivation, tremors and vomiting. While waiting for help, you may – while being aware of the possible legal implications – choose to act on your own.
If a window is opened or a door unlocked, extricate the dog cautiously and carefully -- either alone or with assistance. Then, get him into an air-conditioned car or nearby building. Otherwise, lay him down in a cool, shady place. Wet him with cool water, but never apply ice to his body. Fan him vigorously to speed the evaporation process, which, in turn, will cool the blood and reduce his temperature. Give him cool water to drink or even ice cream to lick.
Hopefully, by now, help will have arrived, and you may have saved some neglectful owner’s pet.
A gentle reminder: don’t YOU become that same neglectful owner.
Remember there’s no such thing as ”just for a minute.“
Article by Nomi Berger. Nomi is the bestselling author of seven novels, one work of non-fiction, two volumes of poetry, and hundreds of articles. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her adopted Maltese, Mini, and has been writing as a volunteer for animal rescue groups in Canada and the U.S.A. since 2013.