The four dogs in Florida who died in a hot car while their owner was having lunch. The Ontario pup whose death was the second that his dog walker was responsible for. The one in Texas who succumbed to heatstroke after being left chained in 102-degree heat. With summer barely underway, PETA has already been inundated with heart-breaking reports of dogs dying of heat-related causes. Every one of them was preventable. Dogs deserve better.
Warm weather brings a wealth of opportunities for outdoor fun with our dogs. But fun can turn fatal when the weather turns hot.
When the temperature is 86 degrees, asphalt can reach a sizzling 135. That’s hot enough to fry a pepper — or a paw. After one minute of contact, dogs’ sensitive foot pads can be burned, blistered and permanently damaged. Sidewalks and roadways can also reflect heat onto dogs’ bodies, and without the ability to sweat to cool themselves, they can quickly suffer from heatstroke.
A good rule of thumb is that if the pavement is too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog. Walking your dog early in the morning or late at night is much safer. Carry water with you, take breaks in shady spots, and never make dogs wear muzzles that don’t allow them to pant, which is what helps them cool down.
If you go to a parade, art festival or other outdoor activity, take water and a collapsible bowl along in case you encounter an overheated dog or one whose guardian didn’t think to bring along water. Watch for heatstroke symptoms such as restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, dark tongue, vomiting and/or a lack of coordination. A dog showing any of these symptoms should be moved out of the heat and taken to a veterinarian immediately.
When heading home from the dog park or dog beach, it can be tempting to stop at the pharmacy or dry cleaner for “just one minute.” But “just one minute” is just too long. PETA has seen these decisions quickly turn deadly when the vehicle’s air conditioning shuts off or the errand takes longer than anticipated.
On a 70 degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 99 degrees in 20 minutes. On a 90 degree day, it can hit 109 degrees in 10 minutes. That’s enough time for animals to sustain brain damage or die of heatstroke.
If you see a dog left in a hot car, take down the color, model, make and license plate number, and have the owner paged at the nearest businesses.
If the owner can’t be located, call humane authorities or the police.
And if authorities are slow to respond and the dog appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness who will back up your assessment, remove the animal from the car and wait for officials to arrive. Provide water and, if possible, get the dog into an air-conditioned building or vehicle. Many states have good Samaritan laws protecting compassionate citizens who save animals or children from hot vehicles.
Kept “out of sight and out of mind,” chained or penned dogs are at an increased risk of suffering from heatstroke. If you see a “backyard dog” without potable water and access to shade, try politely speaking to the owner.
You may receive permission to improve the dog’s living conditions. If not, a quick call to law enforcement may be all that’s necessary. Many counties and cities have laws banning or limiting chaining and penning, and all dogs must at least have shelter, adequate food, clean water and appropriate veterinary care.
We all have a responsibility to keep our animals safe this summer — and to help others in danger.
Michelle Reynolds is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.