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As summer nears and temperatures rise, don’t forget about your furry friends — especially when parking your car on warm, sunny days. A recent puppy rescue in northwest Florida serves as a reminder that leaving animals in vehicles is not only dangerous for pets, but in several states, it’s also illegal.
On May 12, two deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff’s office received a call regarding a “squealing” puppy locked in a hot vehicle in a parking lot. According to a post on the Pensacola-based sheriff’s office Facebook page, Deputy Raymond Matheny and Deputy Sheriff trainee Jennifer Waters rescued the small dog, who was also “panting heavily, and in distress.”
With the driver nowhere to be found, the officers broke the driver’s side window to retrieve the animal and then offered her water and a place to cool off inside their patrol vehicle.
They later located the pup’s owner and arrested him on a charge of animal cruelty.
Even in early May, the outside temperature in the area had risen to 92 degrees, according to the post, and temperatures will continue to climb nationwide as summer arrives. Leaving dogs in hot cars can lead to “irreparable organ damage and even death,” according to the Humane Society, so it’s important to know how hot is too hot for your own pet, as well as your rights if you come across an animal in distress.
During the warm season, the best practice is to leave pets at home to avoid potentially dangerous situations, according to Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
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“We do see these cases time and time again. It seems to happen once a week, especially in the summer,” he said. “The dogs either become sick or distressed or wind up dying because it just becomes too hot in the car. They have organ failure, they go into shock or require medical attention to address the situation.”
Oftentimes, what begins as a 10-minute errand turns into an hourslong excursion, leaving pets in serious risk, even if the car may be parked in the shade or left with the windows cracked open. Temperatures inside a car can rise 30 to 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature, San Filippo says, noting that even a comfortable 70-degree day can create a deadly situation for an animal confined to a car.
If you suspect that an animal locked in a car is in danger, take action. “Call local animal control or the police and let them know. We don’t want people to ignore it and think it’s not their issue,” San Filippo said.
In addition, there are different state laws regarding intervention, so familiarize yourself with local laws on animal rescue so you know the plan of action if you come across a pet in a dire situation. According to a study by Michigan State University’s Animal Legal and Historical Center, approximately 27 states have passed laws that “prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.”
Finally, there are easy ways to ensure your community knows the importance of pet safety in the summer months, like “sharing that message with people you know, with friends or family or on social media, and set a good example, yourself,” San Filippo said.
You can also visit the AVMA’s website to learn more about animal safety in vehicles, and talk to your veterinarian about your specific pet’s needs, as issues may vary from breed to breed and species to species.