Thursday, June 12, 2014

What To Do If You See A Pet In A Car?

What should you do when you see a pet in a car?

I get asked this one often, especially in summer.

Here's my answer.

It is almost impossible to guesstimate the temperature in the car so you should always assume that it is too hot. Even if you think it is cool outside cars are built to hold heat and with all of the window surface area the inside of the car can get deadly hot very quickly. Pets also have a difficult time dissipating heat. When they get hot it is much harder for them to cool off then we do. Some dogs are just built to live in cold climates. Dogs with heavy thick dark coats, thick stocky builds, or a shortened nose can be even more susceptible to temperature increases. My beagle, short, stocky, built like a tank will pant and overheat outside in 80 degree weather, while his brother, thin pit bull mix is perfectly content in the sun. (See Jekyll's Heat Intolerance.)

The literature says that at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, (not a warm temperature for most of us), after 10 minutes your pet can be on its way to hyperthermia. Think about hyperthermia like a snowball effect. After it starts it can be very, very difficult regardless of how aggressive the treatment, to reverse the cascade of events going on inside the body. There is a point where you cannot reverse or turn around the damage being done. A dog panting may look as if they are calm and comfortable and warm, but inside their body is dying. I have seen pets walk in the clinic looking hot and watch them die in front of us no matter what we did to try to cool them down.

Be Afraid For A Panting Dog.

The best thing to do when you see a pet in a car regardless of outside temperature, or where you are, is to call the police and wait for them to arrive.

Now I understand that laws vary by location. If the dispatcher tells you that they will not respond ask them who you need to contact? Call someone until they agree to come and respond. And always wait for them to do so.

In many places there is a fine for the pet owner if they leave a pet in a car unattended.

For all of you who find yourself stuck trying to decide what to do when it appears no one will help call rescue groups, ask for animal welfare advocates in your community and work with any person in law enforcement who will help you save that pet.

As for me, personally, well I won't give you advice and put you in a position of getting into trouble with the law, but I will not walk away. I take photos of the car, the pet, the license plate and the owner when, or if, they arrive. I will also do anything to save a pet. I would rather be wrong than unkind. I am just wired this way. I can make an enemy, pay a fine, pay for someone'e broken window and plea for their insurance company to understand my actions, rather then to watch, worry, wait, and live with my guilty conscious. Also, I am comfortable with and around pets. I always keep a leash in my car, and I would know how to safely remove an unknown pet. These are things to think about. What if the pet isn't friendly? What if they run? They could be injured. Someone else could be injured? What if he does have heat exhaustion or stroke? What....well, think before you act. You will likely be held accountable.

Did you know that your phone can be your eyewitness? Your alibi? and your defense? There is an app for that! There is an app that can measure the temperature. Record the temperature, keep your photos, and help mount a defense to protect that pet and yourself. After you witness one pet dying it changes how you react. Is that my excuse for premeditated window smashing? Maybe?

Be safe, be an advocate, and always be kind.

From the MD State Law;

Transportation. Title 21. Vehicle Laws--Rules of the Road. Subtitle 10. Stopping, Standing, and Parking. § 21-1004.1. Domestic animals left in vehicle (a) A person may not leave a cat or dog unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog. (b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a person may use reasonable force to remove from a motor vehicle a cat or dog left in the vehicle in violation of the provisions of subsection (a) of this section if the person is: (1) A law enforcement officer; (2) A public safety employee of the State or of a local governing body; (3) An animal control officer under the jurisdiction of the State or a local governing body; (4) An officer of a society or association, incorporated under the laws of this State for the prevention of cruelty to animals, authorized to make arrests under the provisions of § 10-609 of the Criminal Law Article; or (5) A volunteer or professional of a fire and rescue service. (c) A person may not use force of any kind to remove from a motor vehicle: (1) A dog used by the State or a local governing body for police work while the dog is on duty; or (2) A cat or dog in the custody of an animal control officer. (d) A person described in subsection (b) of this section may not be held liable for any damages directly resulting from actions taken under the provisions of subsection (b) of this section. CREDIT(S) Acts 1987, c. 611; Acts 1988, c. 296. Amended by Acts 2002, c. 213, § 6, eff. Oct. 1, 2002."

And from the Harford County Law;
Section 64-20 "Animals in Vehicles" of the Harford County Code: A. No person shall leave any animal unattended in a motor vehicle when the temperature outside exceeds eighty degrees Fahrenheit (80° F.), except an Animal Control Warden, contractual agent of animal control or a state or local police K-9 officer who is especially equipped with a vehicle that is used for animal transport. B. Any Animal Control Warden, law enforcement officer or agent of the Humane Society of Harford County, Inc., who determines that an animal has been left in a motor vehicle in violation of this Article shall have the right to take such reasonable steps to free the animal from the vehicle as he deems necessary to protect the animal from serious injury or death." complete article

I'm interested to hear what you would do? Or have done?

You can always find me here, or on Pawbly is a pet centered community dedicated to helping people take better care of their pets. Pawbly is free to use and open to everyone who loves animals. You can ask questions, answer questions, or just share your photos, follow topics, or learn something new about pets.

You can also find me at the veterinary clinic, Jarrettsville Vet, or on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Have a wonderful and safe summer!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog. From reading the law you posted if the police will not respond then I would call 911 and get the Fire Dept there. It clearly says that a firefighter can remove the dog or cat.