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What To Do When You See A Dog Left Alone In a Car on a Hot Summer Day

Ontario SPCA Inspector Scott Silvia definitively answers this question

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Q: “Come summer, I dread seeing a dog left alone in a car while the owner goes off to shop—or, worse, hearing a story on the news about a dog dying of the heat inside a locked car at the mall. What should I do if I see a dog, currently in no distress, but left in a car on a hot day? Maybe the owner will be right back, but then again, maybe not. Do I wait and see? If so, how long do I wait? Or do I immediately call the authorities? And which authority would I call?” 

A: “We do get this one often from both concerned citizens and police alike. No one wants to see an animal left inside a hot car and we all wonder what to do when it does happen. The first action for someone seeing a dog left alone in a car on a hot day is to contact their local SPCA or call police. We recommend calling right away even if the dog does not yet seem to be in distress. Parked cars can quickly reach deadly temperatures, even on relatively mild days with the car parked in the shade and the windows slightly open.

A dog has a normal body temperature of about 39°C (102°F). Unlike people, a dog has a limited ability to sweat to cool off. Even a brief time in a hot environment can be life threatening.

After reaching a body temperature of 41°C (106°F), it doesn’t take long for a pet to begin suffering irreparable brain damage or death.

If you think the dog needs immediate help, remember it is illegal to break the window; it is still property damage and anyone can be held liable for damages. Also, though you may be acting in good faith with the welfare of the animal in mind, police and SPCA investigators are trained to know when to break the window to remove the animal. They have the skills and tools to do this safely, to protect themselves, the animal, and the public. 

If a private citizen chooses to break a window to remove an animal, they must be prepared to show that it was a last resort and that all other options were exhausted and/or unavailable. The animal must then be turned over to animal services or taken to a vet (if the person takes the animal to the vet, they may be responsible for the cost).

If you see a dog unattended in a car during the summer months, immediately call your local police or SPCA (310-SPCA in Ontario only) to report it.
HOT CARS CAN KILL. ACT FAST. SAVE A LIFE. Learn more and take the pledge at 

“I left the window down for him.” “I wasn’t going to be gone long.”

We’ve heard it all! As you know, the issue of owners leaving their pets in their vehicles during the hot summer months, putting animals’ safety at risk and even causing death, is an ongoing problem. There is no excuse for leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle this summer.

If you know you are going to be making a stop or a series of stops, bring another person with you that can stay in the car with the animal or leave the animal at home.

Signs of heatstroke include excessive panting and drooling, listlessness or unconsciousness.

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