Pet Blog

'Leave them at home:' Pets can die quickly in hot cars

Posted May 17, 2014

Gigi, a Great Dane, waits for her owner, Cecily Boyd of Durham, during Bark in the Park night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park Wednesday, June 19, 2013. It was the second time this season the Bulls worked with Second Chance Pet Adoptions to raise money for the no-kill animal shelter.  (Photo by Jeffrey A. Camarati)

— It's not uncommon to see dogs hanging their heads out of car windows during the spring and summer months, but veterinarians and law enforcement officials say four-legged friends should be left at home if their owners plan to turn those cars off and leave the animals inside. 

Temperatures inside vehicles rise rapidly during the spring and summer months, reaching dangerous levels within minutes. 

Earlier this week in Wake Forest, two dogs died inside a parked car at a Walmart after being left inside for nearly three hours. The owner, a Franklinton woman, faces animal cruelty charges in the incident.

Investigators said the temperature inside reached 120 degrees despite being only in the 80s outside. 

A law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory in June 2013 has given emergency responders the ability to rescue animals that are in distress inside vehicles. It allows animal control officers, police officers, firefighters and rescue squad workers to enter vehicles "by any reasonable means" after trying to locate a pet's owner if they believe that the conditions inside may cause "suffering, injury or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation or other endangering conditions."

The law does not apply to the transportation of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, poultry or other livestock.

Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said people who see pets in distress should call 911. Dispatch workers will need to know where the animal is located, what type of vehicle they are in and any details about the owner. 

People in violation of General Statute 14-363.3 can be charged with a class one misdemeanor, which can result in up to 60 days in jail and a fine for those with no previous offenses.

Even if an air conditioner is running, it's never good to leave an animal inside a car. Dogs, for, example, have an internal body temperatures of 102 degrees, making it difficult for them to cool themselves. 

Ginger Tran, a veterinarian with Heritage Animal Hospital in Wake Forest, said animals stuck in hot vehicles normally die because of heat stroke. 

"In a car with windows, even if they are cracked, the temperature can increase 15 degrees in 5 to 10 minutes," she said. "Leave pets at home." 

Symptoms of heat-related disorders:

  • Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart and respiratory rate
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty walking
  • Appears weak or in a stupor

Treating heat-related disorders:

Place the pet in the shade or air conditioning immediately, and apply cool – not cold – water to reduce the animal’s core body temperature. Get help from your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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  • branson1369 May 17, 2014

    This terrible dog owner should be made to sit inside a steaming hot car for almost 3 hours and she should never be allowed to have another pet. How can people be so irresponsible and just plain stupid??