I’ve lived in the South all of my life. Still, it amazes me how hot it gets in the summer. “Hot” isn’t even the word for summer in South Carolina. It’s downright oppressive. My great-grandmother once “reckoned” if she had one child in South Carolina and one in hell, she’d have to save the one in South Carolina first, because hell fire is no match for South Carolina summer.
Leaving the comfy 78-degree lobby of the SPCA, I feel like I’m wading through soup to get to my car. I open the door and am met with a cloud of stifling air which fogs my sunglasses and sends my mascara sliding down my cheeks. I slump into the seat and quickly rearrange my skirt so that my legs aren’t fried.
Then, error of all errors, I grab the so-called “safety” belt, blistering my left hand. Cursing the heat under my breath, I jam the key in the ignition, scorch my right hand on the emergency brake, and wonder if I can drive with my elbows.
Sheesh. How hot is it? I pick up my phone to check the temperature, but even the phone is registering a warning that it can only be used for emergencies until it cools down. Too bad our pets won’t turn off so that they aren’t in danger from the heat.
I’m hopeful that the media coverage of last summer’s heart-rending tragedies has educated people about the dangers of our harsh climate. In the meantime, to add to the learning curve, there are some interesting changes to South Carolina’s laws regarding pets.
Now, hot cars can get you into really hot water.
Signed by the governor and effective June 6, 2014, Section 47-1-40 of the law, in much fancier words than mine, says that (A) the first time a person is caught doing unnecessarily cruel things to his animals (like leaving them to suffer heat stroke in a hot car), he will be charged with a misdemeanor and will pay a fine between $100 and $1,000 or go to jail for up to 90 days. The second time, he will go to jail for as long as two years or pay a fine of up to $2,000.
(B) If it’s really nefarious torment or torture or death results from this cruelty, he is guilty of a felony and will go to jail for at least 6 months and be fined $5,000.
There is a part (C) which is the part that excludes farmers and scientists and hunters and other stuff, none of which are knuckleheads leaving dogs in hot cars. Read for yourself at www.scstatehouse.gov.
So, how hot is too hot? Former Aiken Environmental Control Officer Josh Parry and I tested the heat in early July last year.
The results were surprising. We found the temperature differs from car to car, but not in the way we expected. I thought darker colored exterior and interior would be the hottest.
In truth, I thought I had a pretty good chance of having a cooler car. Instead, we found that despite my silver exterior and beige interior, I had one of the hottest cars at the SPCA.
At 10 a.m., it was 77 degrees and mostly cloudy. My car, which had been sitting in the parking lot since 8 a.m. with windows and sunroof cracked, registered a humid 96 degrees at the ceiling, 94 on the floor and 138 on the dashboard.
In comparison, the black truck in the parking lot with the closed windows registered the same at the ceiling, but cooler at the floor and on the dash. Same with that red Volkswagen that was in my spot again.
When Officer Parry and I went back at 2 p.m. and rechecked, all of the cars were muggy with a side of sweat. My car registered between 21 and 36 degrees hotter in all parts even though the ambient temperature had only risen 13 degrees to a cooler-than-usual 90.
Evidently, thinking lighter colored cars are cooler is not a reliable assumption. Nor is “windows cracked is cool enough.” My light-colored car was hotter in the morning and about the same as everyone else’s later, even though it was shaded by a bigger car and had the windows cracked.
Ironically, while Officer Parry and I were measuring the temperatures, he got a call from dispatch about a dog in a car that had been parked at the hospital for more than an hour. Sigh.
Lesson: “When in doubt, leave Fido out (of the car).” Keep your pet safe, your money in your pocket, and yourself out of The Jail Report.
For more information about these and other life-saving tips like neutering pets, call the SPCA at 803-648-6863 or visit us in person at 199 Willow Run Road or virtually at www.LetLoveLive.org.