We often hear and read about the tragic end of pets being left in hot cars. It is reported that hundreds of pets die this way each year, creating grief for the pet owner, bystanders, the authorities, and most heartbreaking, for the pet itself.
It doesn’t take long for a car interior temperature to change. When it’s 22°C (72°F) outside, the temperature inside a car can heat up to 47° (116°F) within an hour. When it’s 27° (80°F) outside, the temperature inside can heat up to 37°C (99°F) within 10 minutes. Studies have shown that even rolling down the window a bit has little or no effect on the car interior temperature. A group in Windsor, Ontario did a demonstration (click to view video) to show how quickly a car can heat up. You can clearly see how a bad situation can become critical very quickly.
So what can the public do to help avoid the situation of a distressed pet in a hot car?
Pet owners can help by first asking yourself on a hot summer day if it is really necessary to take your pet along or is it better to leave your furry friend in the comforts of home. Even on a day that doesn’t seem hot to you, you could be putting your pet at risk. If you must take your pet along, ensure your pet is properly restrained to make the trip safe for you both. When you reach your destination and leave your vehicle, don’t forget about your pet sitting in the back seat. Remember that you are legally responsible for it.
In Ontario, Canada, the SPCA can enforce any law pertaining to the prevention of cruelty to animals. This includes legislation within the Criminal Code of Canada, used by the SPCA to bring cases of extreme cruelty and neglect to court. In addition, the Ontario SPCA Act, gives them the power to act on reported instances of animal cruelty or neglect.
In the United States, many states have statutes that explicitly prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle. Most of the laws state that the animal cannot be confined or unattended in a parked vehicle and that the conditions are not endangering the animal’s life. Statutes can be explicit, referencing extreme temperatures, lack of ventilation, or failing to provide proper food or drink.
Recently (2017), Indiana introduced a bill that if a person breaks a vehicle window to save an animal, such person is responsible for only half of the cost of repairing the vehicle and is immune from civil or criminal liability. In Fort Wayne Indiana, between May and October 2016 there were 269 call reports for dogs trapped in hot cars.
What Can You Do?
Here are recommendations on what to do if you see a distressed pet in a hot car. Ask yourself how many of these you would actually do if you came upon such a situation.
- Take a photo of the vehicle, including license plate number or write down the car make, model and license-plate number. If the owner happens to return and you still feel the animal was in a dangerous situation, you could consider reporting the incident to the police or animal control.
- If you are near a retail outlet, ask the store to make a public address announcement to try and locate the car owner.
- If the owner cannot be located, call the non-emergency number of your local police or animal control and wait for them to arrive. Do not leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
- If it is taking authorities to long to arrive and it is clear that the animal’s life appears to be in an imminent critical state, find a witness (or several) that will back up your assessment and take the essential measures to remove the suffering animal from the car. With so many smartphone users now a day, it could also be video recorded as backup. Here’s an example of a man breaking the window of a BMW (click to view video) to rescue a dog. Please note that if you take measures into your own hands, there could be criminal implications within your jurisdiction, so it might be best to wait for authorities to arrive if at all possible.
Windshieldink Provides a Valuable Option
The Windshieldink mobile app provides a range of applications and can be of immense help in situations related to a pet in a hot car.
Should you come upon a distressed pet, use the Windshieldink mobile app to send a message to the license plate owner of the vehicle to remind them about their pet. Even if you are unsure whether the license plate is registered with Windshieldink, it only takes a few seconds to verify the plate number is registered, send a message, and potentially save an animal’s life.
If the vehicle owner is not registered with Windshieldink the recommended approach is to contact animal protection services or the police since a potential criminal matter could evolve.
If you don’t know the SPCA phone number or email address, in the province of Ontario you can use the Windshieldink mobile app to send an email message directly and instantly to the SPCA. As shown below, simply enter #SPCA in the license plate field of the mobile app, select “Ontario” as the origin, input your message, and hit “send”. We recommend that you tag your “signature” and GPS location into your message. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds and the message is emailed directly to the SPCA. They will get a clickable map link showing where you are located and if you included your phone number, they can call you back if required.
So what can the public do to aid in a situation of a distressed pet in a hot car? The answer is; there is a lot we can do, quickly and easily, it just takes heart and initiative. Don’t walk by and assume someone else will take care of it.
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