Dogs Do Die In Hot Cars: We Can't Ignore the Issue


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So, what’s it like when a dog – or any pet – or human is left in a hot car. I sought to find out for myself about three years ago. It was a nice day, but not a scorcher, and you can see just how hot it gets, and fast in this video.

And dogs aren’t as well equipped as humans to deal with heat. Their primary means of cooling off is panting – and that’s simply not as efficient as sweating (which indeed they do very little from their paw pads). Larger dogs have an even tougher time, and even more challenging are the brachycephalic breeds, including the Bulldogs, Chow Chows, Pekingese, Lhasa Apso, and English Toy Spaniels – as they have limited ability to breath in hot weather.

I bring all this up because in Illinois the American Kennel Club (AKC) just (unsuccessfully) opposed a pair of bills in Illinois which would allow citizens in a dire emergency to take matters into their hands legally to rescue dogs from hot cars. Although, unless the animal is in dire distress, citizens are still required under the bills (which passed committee but are not yet law) to call law enforcement or animal control first. All agree the proposed bills aren’t perfect and can use some tweaking, although the AKC actively opposed.

I wrote about this, and most comments strongly agree with the bills. And in most cases – not considered immediately dire – law enforcement or animal control will be there.

So, some concerns expressed by the AKC seem unlikely – like people breaking into cars to steal animals.

I do agree that some of the apprehensions are valid. What if someone rescues a dog that doesn’t at all need rescuing, and damages property while doing so? What if the dog rescued requires veterinary care? How is that judgement made, and who pays?

However, some readers suggest strongly leaving things as they are now. I don’t know how that is acceptable, as dogs do continue to die in hot cars, despite videos and warnings just like this. According to the ASPCA, thousands of dogs succumb to heat stroke as a result of being left in a hot vehicle. I was honestly surprised that the number is that high. Even if the number isn’t that high, what’s clear is that it happens too often. As it is, on average, 37 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles, according to Kids and Cars. Shouldn’t our pets have similar protections?

Other states and municipalities are stepping up as well. If the AKC doesn’t like the proposed bills, create their own. I’ll may well support it!

Several dog fanciers (breeders) suggested in social media that is about the dog breeding world vs. animal welfare activists. With that mentality, dogs lose. I’m unsure how that even makes sense.

One idea I have – even if the dog requires immediate rescuing there’s time to take a quick video or at least get a witness (if there’s no phone handy) who can support the need for immediate rescue.

Maybe these bills aren’t perfect, but we need to do something. I have no idea (there is no certain data on this) that the number of animals dying in hot cars is declining, but I do know that more people are traveling in cars with pets than ever before. And with concerns about pets on airplanes, those pets in cars may continue to increase.

Here’s information on heatstroke in dogs.

 

 

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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