The Mystery of Dogs in Parked Cars

Why, after all this time do people continue to leave their dogs in the car?

A dog can die from overheating in matter of minutes. Duh – doesn’t everyone know that??

So again I ask, why the hell do I continue to see people leaving their dog in the car in the middle of summer, or dragging them out for walks when it is 102 degrees outside? Surely it cannot be ignorance; the issue of dogs and heat has been around since before I was born. So….I guess that leaves stupidity.

How Dogs Handle Heat

Did you know that dogs don’t really sweat? They can sweat a little bit from their paws and nose, but not enough to make a difference. That leaves panting as their primary method of releasing heat. If you see your dog panting, he or she is just trying to cool off, but….keep your eye out for signs of trouble.

Signs of an Overheated Dog

When a dog is overheated, he or she may have excessive thirst, a fast heart rate, and / or glazed eyes, He or she may also start drooling, staggering or be weak in general.  It is time to take action.

Keep an eye on your little guy or gal access and provide access to cool water, a shady spot, or let them share your fan (unless you are really lucky and have air conditioning, which I don’t). Do not be an alarmist if you see your dog panting, but do watch out for the other signs of overheating.

Not sure? Well, if you are wilting from the heat then odds are your dog is pretty hot too.

Chilling in the Heat
Chilling in the Heat

One day it was so hot, Phoebe was panting and laying on the marble floor, breathing like she just ran a marathon. I found an old flannel rag, wet it and wrapped it around her. She didn’t even try to take it off. I just kept refreshing the dampness when it got to warm or dried out, and she was a happy camper (later, I read that it is better to put something cool on their chest versus their back; I will try that next time, but for this round a cape worked). She was in Heaven when she stumbled across the this contraption called a fan. Now, if I want to find Phoebe on a hot day, I just have to go check out all the rooms that have fans going. .

Overheating can lead to heat stroke.

Dog Heat Stroke

“If your dog’s body temperature gets to 109°F or higher, heat stroke is the result. The cells of the body rapidly start to die. The brain swells, causing seizures. Lack of blood supply to the GI tract causes ulcers. Dehydration leads to irreversible kidney damage. All these catastrophic events take place within a matter of minutes.

In the early stages of a heat-related illness it can be difficult to assess your dog’s condition, since it’s normal for him to pant when he’s warm or while exerting himself (source: Healthy Pets )”

Laws Against Leaving Dogs in Cars

I am lucky. I live in a state where leaving a dog in a car is a crime. There are several other states with similar laws as well.

Does anyone know of any international laws?

Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles

This is the law for my state:

California Penal Code § 597.7

“No person shall leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal…. peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer is authorized to take all steps that are reasonably necessary for the removal of an animal from a motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, breaking into the motor vehicle, after a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person responsible.”

The punishment is not that steep, but at least I know I can call the police or animal control next time I see it.