Baby, it's HOT Outside!
I've lived in South Carolina my entire life, and survived thirty something hot summers, but I swear it seems a whole lot hotter now than it did when I was a kid. Maybe because then, summertime meant popsicles, Slip 'N Slides and swimming pools, and now it just means climbing into a scorching car to go to work or run errands, and breaking a sweat just by walking out to check the mail.
But "it's not the heat, it's the humidity", right? Call it whatever you want, it's just plain hot. Imagine how much hotter it would be if, instead of wearing clothes, you were covered in fur. And imagine how crossing a street, a parking lot, or walking down a sidewalk would feel without the protection of flip flops on your feet.
Every year I’m hopeful that media coverage of past summer’s heartbreaking tragedies has educated people about the dangers of our harsh summer climate and leaving pets in vehicles. To add to the learning curve, there have been some interesting changes to South Carolina’s laws regarding pets in recent years. Now, pets in hot cars can get you into really hot water with the law.
In 2014, SC state legislators tweaked the cruelty to animals statute to provide stiffer penalties. Section 47-1-40 of the law says that the first time a person is caught inflicting unnecessary pain or suffering upon an animal (like leaving them to suffer in a hot car), he will be charged with a misdemeanor and will pay a fine between $100 and $1000 or go to jail for up to 3 months. The second time, he will go to jail for as long as two years or pay a fine of up to $2000. And if the ill-treatment is particularly nefarious, like 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 $5000. You can read it all for yourself at www.scstatehouse.gov.
So, just how hot is it? On Friday afternoon, I borrowed our maintenance department's new infrared digital thermometer and took to the SPCA parking lot to find out. The first surface I encountered was the sidewalk, which I often see dogs being walked on, and it registered a scorching 141 degrees, followed by a blistering 153 degrees on the darker asphalt.
The grass registered quite a bit cooler at 122 degrees, with grass in the shade coming down a much more tolerable 106 degrees. This is very good information for visitors, volunteers and anyone to keep in mind when walking a dog outside in the summer heat. An article from TheDodo.com offered a quick and easy test: "put the back of your hand on the pavement, and if you can't keep it there for five seconds, it's too hot for your pup's feet."
Moving on to my car, which had been sitting partially shaded by a small tree with the windows cracked, the inside temperature registered a blazing 168 degrees. The backseat was shaded from the tree and still registered 144 degrees. How long would you want to sit in that kind of heat?
All of these readings were taken at 2:00pm with an outside air temperature of 92 degrees, which is a mild summer day in the south. What's the 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 spaying and neutering pets, call the SPCA at 803-648-6863, visit us at 199 Willow Run Road or virtually at www.LetLoveLive.org.
Sarah Neikam is the Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her family which includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.