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Hot cars present a danger to pets left inside

Numerous calls were received by area law enforcement officials over the weekend regarding dogs left unattended in vehicles during the latest slew of scorching hot summer days.

“We recommend never leaving an animal unattended in a hot car, ever,” Kristy Long, community outreach and volunteer coordinator at Home at Last Humane Society told The Chronicle. “Animals already start at a body temperature that’s about 10 degrees higher than our own, so when you combine that with the fact the temperature can rise very quickly in a parked car on a hot day – it can be deadly.”

“On an 85 degree day, a car’s interior temperature can climb to 120 degrees in 20 minutes,” Oregon Humane Society literature reads. “On hot and humid days, the temperature in a car parked in direct sunlight can rise more than 30 degrees per minute and quickly become lethal. A dog can withstand a body temperature of 107 degrees for only a short time before suffering irreparable brain damage or even death.”

A study conducted by the Stanford University of Medicine states that with highs ranging from 72 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit, a car’s interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees within an hour. One note in the article reports the majority of the temperature spike takes place in the first 30 minutes of the car being parked, making the first half hour the most dangerous for unattended animals.

Research states that a mild 70 degrees outdoors equates to about 100-degree temperatures inside a vehicle, while an 80 degree day averages at about 120 and a 90 degree day 140.

After receiving a complaint on Saturday, July 11, one animal control officer arrived at the Wasco County Public Library to discover a dog had been left for more than 30 minutes inside a locked car. Upon locating the owner, the officer was told he intended to keep his dog there for another hour. The officer informed him he would remain in the area to monitor the dog’s wellbeing, and if it showed any signs of distress, he would be forced to take additional action. The owner was seen returning to his vehicle and exiting the parking lot.

The next day, local thermometers recorded a peak of 107 degrees. From July 11 to the end of July 12, six separate complaints were logged with city police concerning dogs being left out in the heat.

Long said the reality is no animal should be subjected to such risky conditions for any length of time.

“Although owners might think they are doing their pets a favor by letting them travel with them,” Long said, it’s actually the opposite.

Leaving an animal alone in a car for even a few minutes at a time can be devastating for its health, she said, and in some cases can cause brain damage or organ failure.

“Even if you have the windows cracked, it’s just not enough air flow to keep the car cool,” Long said. “And it’s also important to note that dogs are not the only animals susceptible to heat stroke — cats are as well. It’s a really serious issue more people need to be aware of.”

Local law enforcement officials encourage citizens who witness an animal left unattended in a vehicle during the hot weather to immediately call city police at 541-296-2233.

If you’re concerned an animal might be experiencing heat stroke, common signs include excessive panting, staggering, lethargic behavior, diarrhea or vomiting and body temperatures exceeding 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your pet is overcome by heat exhaustion, Home at Last officials advise immediately immersing or spraying the animal “with cool running water (not cold water as that could cause shock),” and to continue until his or her body temperature lowers.

Owners are then encouraged to provide their pets with water to drink and to consult their local veterinarians right away to determine if any additional treatment is needed.


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