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July 10, 2007 > Ohlone Humane Society

Ohlone Humane Society

The Dog Days of Summer can be killers

By Nancy Lyon

The heat's on and it's time to look to the needs of our animal friends during the summer.

The weekend before last was very warm and I was answering the phone at the Tri-Cities Animal Shelter in Fremont when an urgent call came in from a very concerned person. Two dogs were in a closed car in front of a pet store, frantically barking and fighting each other in panic. Because there are no field services on the weekend, the call was quickly channeled to the Fremont Police Department where emergency calls of this kind are supposed to be given priority.

Potentially tragic cases like this can be prevented if people will just...think! The rules of responsible guardianship of our animal companions are not just some airy-fairy advice meant for others. It can and does happen too often to even those who think they are informed but take a chance... a chance that can quickly lead to terrible suffering and death.

Most people have enough common sense to know that leaving an animal or child in a parked vehicle during hot weather can become dangerous in a very short period of time. But many don't realize that the temperature can skyrocket after just a few minutes. Parking in the shade or leaving the windows cracked does little to alleviate the climbing temperature. Since animals can't open the door or hit the horn to ask for help, they must depend on their guardian to consider their welfare and use good judgment.

Research shows that on a warm, sunny day, windows allow sunlight in light, trapping heat inside the vehicle, pushing the temperature inside to dangerous levels. On an 85-degree Fahrenheit day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within ten minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees. At 110 degrees, animals are in danger of heatstroke. On hot and humid days, the temperature in a car parked in direct sunlight can rise more than 30 degrees per minute, and becomes deadly quickly.

A recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine showed that temperatures inside cars can rise dramatically even on mild days. With outside temperatures as low as 72 degrees, researchers found that a car's interior temperature can heat up by an average of 40 degrees within an hour, with 80% of that increase in the first 30 minutes. A cracked window provides little relief from this oven effect. The Stanford researchers found that a cracked window had an insignificant effect on both the rate of heating and the final temperature after an hour.

Unlike humans, many animals, including dogs and cats, cannot perspire to cool themselves. The movement of air into and out of the lungs allows them to maintain their normal body temperature. Panting and salivation are outward signs that your animal friend is overheating and in distress. When humidity and temperature exceed the point at which these cooling mechanisms can maintain a viable body temperature heatstroke results which can mean permanent brain damage or even death.

So think! You and your fuzzy friend are not an exception, step up to the plate and use that common sense. During hot or even warm weather don't take chances with your friend's life. Don't let that eager look as you pull out the keys cloud your judgment. Even if you park in the shade and there's a nice breeze blowing outside - leave him at home!

If you come across an animal or child locked in a car in warm or hot weather - act immediately and contact authorities. Be prepared to give the exact location, vehicle make, color and license number. Tell them you will be waiting and ask others to seek out help and try to find the car's owner.

Emergency phone numbers for animals suffering from heat exposure and injury are:

Fremont Animal Services: 510-790-6634/5 (Monday-Friday)
Fremont Police Department: 510-790-6800 press # 0, ask for dispatch (weekends/Monday)
Hayward Animal Services: 510-293-7200 x10, or Dial - 911
Milpitas Animal Services: 408-361-6600, for emergencies ONLY Dial - 911
Newark Animal Services and Police Department: 510-790-7237 (dispatch)
Union City Animal Services: (Monday-Thursday) and Police Department, 510-471-1365

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