Summertime is here, which means one thing and one thing only in the south – agonizingly hot temperatures and humidity. I was born and raised in Aiken, SC, but still can’t deal with the heat, and I know for our furry friends this time of year is even more of a struggle.
We see the articles every year: “Dog Dies in Hot Car.” The stories are heartbreaking, and absolutely avoidable. Unfortunately, a lack of education regarding leaving our pets in hot cars resulted in 59 deaths and 126 rescues in the summer of 2019 (Source).
Many pet owners wonder – “How hot is too hot?” To keep it simple, without the AC running, your car gets approximately 19-degrees hotter than the outside temperature with 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, it can feel as much as 34-degrees hotter. This means, even on a nice 70-degree day, your vehicle can reach temperatures of 104-degrees within just half an hour. And, yes, this is the case even with your windows cracked.
As a rule of thumb, it is always best to leave your pet at home or plan your trip with your pet without unnecessary stops. If you have to make a *quick* stop (for example, running into the gas station to pay), be as quick as possible. Leave some water out in your car for your dog, park in the shade and make sure the windows are rolled down a few inches (though this won’t stop the temperatures from rising, any breeze will help). Do not go in anywhere for more than 10 minutes – preferably much less. If you need to, set an alarm on your phone to ensure you don’t take any longer, and check on your pet when the alarm goes off.
The best option if you are traveling with your pet is to carry a spare car key with you. This way, you can leave the car running with the AC on and the car locked. Be sure to set your parking brake in case unsupervised ‘Fido’ knocks the car into gear.
In the event that you notice a dog left in a parked car, you may want to jump into action before it’s too late. There are a few ways you can go about this. First, observe whether the dog appears to be in distress. Are they panting, drooling excessively, barking or whining, or, even worse, poorly responsive? If the car is running or the windows are rolled down, or if the dog is not exhibiting the above symptoms and you have reason to believe the owner may be right back, wait near the car to observe whether the owner returns quickly – do not wait too long.
If time has passed or you have growing concern for the pup, take a photo of the license plate. Go into the store and ask for a manager. Explain the situation and have them request the owner of the car to the front. Many times, the store manager is corporative and willing to do this. You can even request to leave before the owner arrives to avoid any possible confrontation.
If you notice the dog is in distress or has clearly been left alone for far too long, you need to take action immediately. Call your local dispatcher and explain the situation. Take a photo of the license plate and the dog in distress as proof in case the owner arrives before dispatchers. Unless you understand your local “Good Samaritan” laws regarding saving pets yourself from a hot car, it is not recommended to immediately break the window in your own efforts to rescue the distressed animal. Always call law enforcement before taking any further action.
City of Aiken dispatch: (803) 642-7620
Aiken County dispatch: (803) 642-1761
City of Aiken “Animals in Hot Cars” Law:
“It shall be unlawful for an owner or person to confine any animal in a motor vehicle that is done in a manner that places the animal in a life threatening or extreme health-threatening situation by exposing it to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold, without proper ventilation or other protection from such heat or cold. In order to protect the health and safety of an animal, an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who has probable cause to believe that this section is being violated shall have the authority to enter such motor vehicle by any reasonable means necessary under the circumstances, after making a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other responsible person…” (Read More: https://library.municode.com/sc/aiken)
*City of Aiken allows “Good Samaritan” action in certain circumstances. Read more at the link above about how you can take action upon yourself to rescue a distressed animal.
Aiken County “Animals in Hot Cars” Law:
“It shall be a violation of this article for a motor vehicle owner or operator to place or confine an animal or allow it to be placed or confined or to remain unattended in a motor vehicle without sufficient ventilation or under conditions for such period of time as may be reasonably expected to endanger the health or well-being of such animal due to heat, cold, lack of water or other such circumstances as may reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death.” (Read More: https://library.municode.com/sc/aiken_county)
Always remember, it is up to us to be a voice for the voiceless and step in when necessary. The death of an animal in extreme temperatures is torturous, yet completely avoidable if we help educate fellow pet owners and take a stand against neglectful actions like these. Be their voice.