Summer is (thankfully) on its way, and with it rising temperatures. Great news for humans, not good news for dogs left in parked cars.
A typical scenario: You’re on your way home from walking the dogs, and you realise you are out of milk, bread and a few other groceries. You’ll just be a few minutes you think, so you pull into a shopping centre, wind the windows down a smidge, give the dogs a pat and tell them you’ll be back in a sec, and you rush into the shops to buy your needed goods.
Did you know? When it’s 21 degrees Celsius outside, it can heat up to 32 degrees inside the car within 10 minutes and 40 degrees in just half an hour. Research has shown that leaving the windows partially open, or even parking in the shade made virtually no difference to the rising temperatures inside the car. Add to this, a dog cools himself by panting and sweating through his paws, but if there is no cool, fresh air to replace the hot air, he has no way to cool himself.
The possible result? Heatstroke, or even death.
Exposing an animal to excessive heat is also illegal in South Africa
According to the Animal Protections Act – Offences in respect of animals:
Any person who: conveys, carries, confines, secures, restrains or tethers any animal –
(i) under such conditions or in such a manner or position or for such a period of time or over such a distance as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering; or
(ii) in conditions affording inadequate shelter, light or ventilation or in which such animal is excessively exposed to heat, cold, weather, sun, rain, dust, exhaust gases or noxious fumes
Shall, subject to the provisions of this Act and any other law, be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding twelve months or to such imprisonment without the option of a fine.
The moral of the story? Using our scenario at the top of this post – take the dogs home first, give them some water (after all, walking is a thirsty job) and then hit the shops. It’s just plain cruel to put your dogs willingly in a sauna, so don’t do it. Just don’t.
What do you do if you see a dog parked in a hot car?
So you know not to do it, but what if you spot a dog (or dogs) inside a parked car on a warm day? Firstly, don’t smash the window in panic! You could be liable for damage to property. Rather, follow these steps:
- Asses the dog’s condition (see how to recognise heatstroke below)
- Write down the car’s make, model and registration
- Look for a person of authority nearby (such as a security guard) to help
- Alert the nearby shop managers or the mall’s security and ask them to make an announcement over the PA system
- If no help is at hand, call the non-emergency line for the police, Animal Anti-Cruelty or even your local vet
- If the authorities are taking too long to respond, and you (and at least one witness) concur that the animal’s life is in danger, take pictures, and then take the necessary steps to remove him from the car.
How to recognise heatstroke
Any of the following could be signs of heatstroke: excessive drooling, panting heavily, extreme lethargy, lack of coordination, vomiting, or completely non-responsive. A dog can suffer irreparable organ damage or even die from heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes.
Emergency treatment for heatstroke
Once the dog is out of the car, the key is to get their body temperature down. Get them into a cool environment immediately (an air-conditioned room preferably) and spray/immerse them in cool (not cold) water. Give them something to drink – but try to encourage small sips, rather than big gulps. You can also sponge them with cool water, particularly in the groin, chest and paws to cool them down gradually. Get them to the vet as soon as their breathing has returned to normal for a full assessment and further treatment if necessary.
And if you happen to spot the offender, either before or after the deed has been done, a few kind (or harsh) words might prompt him or her from doing it again – and it could save a life.