As incidents across the country pile up, putting dogs – and even neglected children – at risk, police in some jurisdictions are writing expensive tickets for violators.
This week, Roswell, Ga. police, for example, have cited several dog owners for animal cruelty for leaving dogs in hot cars. One case took place during the hottest day ever recorded in Georgia. A policeman ticketed a woman accused of leaving her dog in the car at a gas station with a heat index hovering near 107 degrees.
"It doesn't take any time at all, 30 seconds for them to overheat in a car," veterinarian Andy Morton with Roswell's Chattahoochee Animal Hospital told WSBTV-Atlanta.
The amount of the ticket is up to the officer's discretion, and can be as high as $1,000. It can also lead to one year in jail for committing "animal cruelty."
Morton says leaving the car running with the air conditioning on for a dog is not going to help much, especially if the owner is going to be in a store for 15 minutes, not to mention the danger of having a car stolen that way.
"Even with air conditioning in the car, in some cars, when they idle, the air conditioner cuts off," Morton said. "They do not sweat, so they can't evaporate that way, so they can't cool off that way," he told WSBTV.
Police in Broomfield, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico and Batavia, Ohio are also citing drivers who leave dogs in hot cars.
The best plan for your dog in the current heatwave:
Leave your dog at home on warm days. he or she will be much happier in an air-conditioned house. Leave your dog plenty of water.
On trips with your pet, bring plenty of fresh drinking water and bowl. Make frequent stops for watering and peeing. It may be a hassle, but you are the one who wanted a dog.
Don't ever let dogs ride loose in pick-up truck beds, but especially in the heat. The hot metal will burn a dog's paws, the sun and flying debris can hurt the dog too. It's never a good idea, in any weather, because the dog can accidentally be thrown out of the truck if the brakes are suddenly applied.
If you see your dog in distress, veterinarians say to take the dog into the shade, an air conditioned area, or to the vet if you see signs of heat exhaustion. Those symptoms are restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, dark tongue, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes or dizziness. To lower body temperature gradually, give the animal water to drink, place a cold towel or ice pack on the head, neck and chest, and/or immerse the dog in cool (not cold) water.
What should you do if you see a dog locked in a hot car?
Note the car make, model, color and tag number, then go to the store, if in a store parking lot, and ask the managers to page the owner.
Call the police, which usually can respond much faster than can animal control departments. The police have the capability and authority to enter the vehicle and rescue the pet.
Most jurisdictions empower only police, EMT, animal control and fire dept. personnel to break into a car to rescue an animal. If you break a window to rescue a dog, you may be liable for costs if the owner presses charges.