Protecting Pets Left in Cars

Concerned citizens and legislators in a number of states are moving to address the high rate of pet mortality associated with pets being left alone in parked cars. Among them are Pennsylvania and California.

The Danger Is Very Real

Renee Schiavone, writing recently in Patch, points out that “Leaving a pet alone in a hot car is something that touches a lot of nerves. And, rightfully so. The inside temperature of a vehicle can jump up to 123 degrees in just an hour – and that’s when it’s only 80 degrees outside, according to the National Weather Service.”

She quotes People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, with the alarming detail that “[O]n a 90-degree day, interior temperatures can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes.”

Pennsylvania, California Take Action to Protect Pets

The Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act, introduced in Pennsylvania’s state Senate by Senator Andy Dinniman, and introduced in the state House by Representatives Frank Farry and Dom Costa and is legislation aimed to protect pets left unattended in hot cars, the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association reports.

This proposed legislation prohibits the confinement of a dog or cat in an unattended motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health and well-being of the animal.

Police officers, public safety professionals, and humane officers would have authority to remove a dog or cat from an unattended motor vehicle if it is believed the animal is suffering and the owner or operator of the vehicle cannot be found after a reasonable search.

California is another state that is addressing the problem, with its ‘Right to Rescue’ law. In effect since January, the law allows for citizens to rescue pets from hot vehicles, so long as the animal seems in distress from heat or lack of ventilation.

Once these conditions are met, a concerned citizen may even break into the vehicle, without fear of prosecution or civil liability.

Patch’s Schiavone offers these things to know about pets in hot vehicles, courtesy of PETA:

It only takes minutes.

According to PETA, dogs trapped inside of hot vehicles can succumb to heatstroke in just minutes. That’s even if the car isn’t parked in direct sunlight. Dogs don’t sweat like humans do, and can only cool themselves by panting.

Know the symptoms of heatstroke.

“If you see a dog showing any symptoms of heatstroke—including restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy, and lack of appetite or coordination—get the animal into the shade immediately,” PETA says.

Get the pup water – but make sure it’s not ice-cold.

You can lower a symptomatic dog’s body temperature by providing the dog with water, applying a cold towel to the animal’s head and chest, or immersing the dog in tepid (not ice-cold) water. Then immediately call a veterinarian.


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