Nancy Hill didn’t need to tell the half-dozen or so media representatives that it was hot on Tuesday.
Still, the director of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service proved her point.
As summer has finally arrived, so has the spike in calls to SCRAPS over pets being left in scorching-hot parked cars while their owners are away.
“That’s what people do,” Hill said as a stuffed animal was placed inside while Francie Rapier, a SCRAPS officer, monitored the temperature of the silver Toyota Corolla with a thermometer. “We get multiple calls every day. It’s probably happening somewhere right now.”
Hill along with county Commissioner Todd Mielke held the demonstration to prove a point before there is an animal fatality in 2012: Temperatures can skyrocket in a short amount of time even with the windows partially down.
While there have been no deaths from dogs or cats being left behind, there have been several citations written as concerned citizens have called for help, worried that animals are in distress.
“People think cracking a window for air will be enough, but it isn’t,” Hill said, adding that even leaving a water bowl behind won’t help.
Within five minutes, even after the air-conditioner had been running for full blast several minutes before hand, it was 87 degrees inside the car in the shade. After 15 minutes, it was 103 degrees in the front seat where the sun shone through the front windshield.
“As you can see, it’s really creeping up there,” Hill said. “Ask yourself how long you spend inside a store.”
The heat can also be scorching in pickup truck beds. Dogs sweat through the pads on their feet, doubling the danger.
While SCRAPS serves unincorporated Spokane County and the city of Spokane Valley, along with other municipal jurisdictions, Hill said those who see an animal suffering from heat stress can call 9-1-1.
“They’ll refer the call to us,” she said.
Anyone leaving a pet in a vehicle during warm weather may be charged with confinement in an unsafe manner, which is a misdemeanor. That person may additionally be charged with animal cruelty, which could result in felony charges.
Hill cited an instance in 2009 where someone left a Labrador retriever in a vehicle on a 75-degree day and the dog died. The owner was charged with a class C felony, which has a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
If a pet becomes overheated:
- Move the animal to the shade and apply cool water to its body to gradually lower the temperature
- Apply ice packs or cold towels to the head, neck and chest only
- Let the animal drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes
- Take your pet directly to a veterinarian
Anyone who sees an animal left in a vehicle can call SCRAPS at 477-2533 or 9-1-1.