Most people think their dogs are cool, but in the warm months of the year, literally keeping your dog cool is a pet guardians duty. The Red Rover organization based in Sacramento, California is in the midst of a “My Dog is Cool” campaign across the country, reminding people just how hot it gets in cars, even with moderate outside temperatures.
On Friday, May 17, the group was welcomed by Arden Fair Mall, who graciously paid for the printing of materials and posters for the large displays. Volunteers and staff talked to people, educating them about how quickly a vehicle heats up, even on 70 degree days, and asking them to sign a pledge to keep their dog cool. Around the country Red Rover volunteers are putting on similar educational events reminding people to never leave their dogs in cars unattended on warm or hot days. Some of the events had local law enforcement come out to demonstrate just how fast the inside of a vehicle heats up.
You might think that “everyone knows better”, but every year thousands of dogs die needlessly, from being left in hot cars. By mid-May Arden Fair Mall already had five dogs that needed to be rescued from hot cars. Last year, one dog in distress was left their by its veterinarian owner, so even people who you would presume know better, don’t always do the right thing.
People often think, “it’s just for a minute or two, I’ll keep the windows cracked or open”, but the interior of a car heats up rapidly. The light that comes in through a window basically stays trapped in the car, and opening the windows will not allow the heat to escape. A Stanford University study showed that on a 72 degree day the internal temperature of a vehicle can go to 117 degrees within an hour.
California is one of 14 states that makes it a crime to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle under any conditions that could endanger the “health or well being” of the animal (California Penal Code Section 597.7) If the animal does not sustain “great bodily injury” there is a fine of $100, but if the animal does suffer great bodily injury, the penalty can be a $500 fine or 6 months in the county jail or both. If a person is cited more than once for a case where this is no “great bodily injury”, a second offense can also include jail time and a $500 fine.
If you see a dog in car by itself on a warm day, write down the vehicle make, model, color and license plate. Note where the vehicle is parked and the time. Go to the nearest businesses and have the owner paged. If the car is in a mall parking lot or a place like a movie theater or amusement park, contact their security. If the dog appears to be in distress with signs such as excess panting, seizures, excessive drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, call 911 right away. Otherwise, call animal control (in Sacramento 311) or call both animal control and 911 to be safe. If it is at all possible, go back to the vehicle to keep checking on the dog. If its condition appears to worsen, call 911. It is also very helpful for you to be there to show the authorities where the vehicle is located and tell them what you have observed. It may be an inconvenience to you, but it may be a matter of life or death for the dog.
Red Rover has flyers and posters that you can order or download from their web site to help spread the word, including signs for stores to put in their windows to remind dog owners who might be thinking about leaving their dog in the car. You can also take a pledge that you will keep your dog cool, which in turn will make you a very cool guardian.