Hot Cars Are Not Cool

By Kimberly Wade

We may have seen a brief cool down this week but ultimately the heat is still upon us and that means you need to think carefully before bringing your pets with you. Don’t get me wrong; I, as much as anyone, love bringing my dogs with me to dog-friendly places—not to mention they love car rides. Barley, my little terrier, would go everywhere with me if he could! But in this heat, if I know I can’t keep the car cool or will be running errands where I can’t take him, he stays home.

Just the other day one of our Animal Control officers in Carson City called our Operations Director. He found a cute, little pup locked inside a car and had no choice but to break the window. He had searched for the pet parent and asked around to no avail. When the dog began showing signs of distress, he knew he had to intervene. He broke the window, pulled out the dog, offered a cool compress and water. Luckily, this time, the dog was okay, but many times dogs are not that lucky. Dogs can’t cool themselves down as easily as people, and once they overheat, they can suffer extensive organ damage… or worse.

We’re not here to judge or to say anything about this incident other than to let it serve as a reminder—and to tell people that good pet parenting is essential to having a pet. Dogs love to tag along with us, but in the extreme heat (which is seriously over 70 degrees) and the extreme cold, leave them at home. We know you want to have fun in the sun but if you’re going to do that, start your car and let it cool down before putting Fido in, and then go directly to your dog-friendly destination. Then, repeat the cool down process before you head home.

We know it’s unfortunately inevitable that it will happen, so if you see a pet in distress, in a hot car, here’s how you can help:

  • Call Animal Control or the Police; inform them if the pet appears to be in distress.
    • If you’re in Washoe County, call 775-322-3647 (DOGS).
    • If you’re in Carson City, call 775-887-2171.
  • Try to find the pet parent.
  • Note the vehicle info (license plate, color, model etc). Alert nearby businesses.
  • Keep an eye on the car until an officer or the parent arrives.

In Nevada, per NRS 574.195, a person shall not allow a cat or dog to remain unattended in a parked or standing vehicle during a period of extreme heat (over 70 degrees) or cold. An Animal Control Officer may use any force that is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances to remove a pet from a motor vehicle. If you leave a pet in a hot car, this is considered animal cruelty and a misdemeanor. I repeat. This is cruelty and a misdemeanor.

Want some quick facts about pets in hot cars? According to the ASPCA, hot cars are NOT cool:

  • 75 degrees can become 100 degrees in ten minutes. 85 degrees can become 100 degrees in eight minutes. In 30 minutes, both of these vehicles would reach 120 degrees.
  • Cracking windows does not stop the heat from rising inside a vehicle.
  • Dogs can succumb to heatstroke even in the shade if the temperature is still hot.
  • Signs of heatstroke: excessive panting, lethargy, weakness, drooling, staring or anxious expression, unresponsive, dark red gums, collapse, rapid heartbeat, warm skin, vomiting and collapse.

I’m not here to bring up touchy subjects or sob stories, but rather to inform, because we know this happens. We see dogs in distress arrive at our clinic and others around the region. It’s not always a happy ending. Please, while you can of course enjoy summertime with your dogs, think twice before you take them everywhere.

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