Leaving dogs in hot cars isn’t just cruel, it’s criminal

(TNS) For years, PETA has been spreading a simple, yet vital message: Hot cars kill. It’s now well known that leaving dogs in vehicles on a warm day is as cruel and deadly as putting them in a hot oven. No one can claim ignorance.

Yet already this year, there have been at least 15 heat-related animal deaths — and these are just the ones that have been reported. Most aren’t.

Whether done out of malice or negligence, leaving animals to bake to death in a vehicle is inexcusable — and anyone who does so could face felony cruelty charges.

Last month, a man was charged with cruelty to animals after reportedly leaving a dog in a car outside a medical facility in Georgia. “(The dog) was crying really hard and I knew that (he) needed help,” one witness said. “(He) was trying to climb out of the vehicle. (He) had clearly been in there for a long time.” When a police officer arrived and opened the door, the dog reportedly fell to the pavement. He later died, despite efforts to save him.

A Staten Island man who claimed that he was drunk when he left his two dogs in a sweltering vehicle last month was charged with aggravated cruelty to an animal, animal neglect and leaving an animal in a vehicle in an extreme temperature. Police freed the dogs and tried to resuscitate them on the sidewalk — pouring water on them and administering oxygen — but one was so damaged from the heat that he had to be euthanized.

And a Nebraska woman was recently sentenced to a year in prison and banned from owning dogs for 30 years for allegedly leaving two animals to die in a hot car in 2016.

It’s heartening that these cases are being taken seriously, but a year behind bars is a day at the beach compared to what dogs endure when they’re left in blazing-hot vehicles. According to one veterinarian, “When you do an autopsy on a dog (who) died this way, the organs are soupy.”

Panting is dogs’ primary means of cooling themselves, but it’s ineffective when the air around them is as hot as a sauna. As their body temperature — and panic level — rises, many frantically attempt to chew or claw their way out, but it’s no use. Soon, their liver, kidneys and brain begin to shut down. They lose control of their bowels, vomit, suffer heart attacks and collapse. It’s a terrifying, painful way to die.

Some people make the deadly mistake of thinking that their dog will be fine in a parked car for “just a minute.” But it only takes minutes for a parked car to turn into a deathtrap. When it’s 75 degrees outside, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 104 degrees in 20 minutes. On a 90-degree day, it can reach 119 degrees in the same amount of time.

Parking in the shade, leaving the windows partially open and/or leaving a bowl of water for your dog do not keep vehicles cool enough to be safe. Leaving the air conditioner on isn’t a failsafe, either. Dogs have died after A/C units malfunctioned or they bumped a button, turning off the system.

If you see an animal left in a hot car, call local humane authorities or 911 immediately. If authorities are unresponsive or too slow to react and the animal’s life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness who will back up your assessment and then carefully remove the animal from the vehicle. Get the dog into the shade immediately, reduce the body temperature with lukewarm water and ensure that he or she is rushed to a veterinarian.

And please, if you’re driving with your dog this summer and suddenly remember that you need to stop at the bank or grab something from the grocery store, drop off your animal companion at home first, where it’s cool and safe. No errand is worth risking your best friend’s life — or landing yourself behind bars.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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