Friday, July 20, 2012

A reminder of the dangers of leaving dogs unattended in hot vehicles

Calgary Animal & Bylaw Services, the Calgary Fire Department and the Calgary Humane Society are reminding pet owners that leaving dogs, unattended in hot vehicles puts them at serious risk of heatstroke.

“The temperature can rise so fast in a vehicle, it’s not safe for dogs to be left for any amount of time in hot weather,” said Bill Bruce, Director, Animal & Bylaw Services. “Just think how hot your car is when you return to it even after 15 or 20 minutes. No animal should be left in conditions like that.”

Calgary’s Responsible Pet Ownership Bylaw states that pets can’t be left unattended in a vehicle if the weather conditions are not suitable.  This applies to both hot and cold conditions. On a day where the outside temperature is 29 degrees, it takes only ten minutes for the interior of a vehicle to heat up to approximately 39 degrees.  Within 30 minutes, the temperature inside of that same car can reach an unbearable 49 degrees.  Dogs do not have sweat glands and primarily use panting as a means of cooling down which is much less efficient than sweating. In a very short period of time, a dog with a high body temperature can suffer critical damage to his nervous system, heart, liver and brain.

From July 1-16, Animal & Bylaw Services responded to 65 complaints of an animal in distress in a vehicle. That’s more than double the 31 received over the same period last year.

Many complaints are resolved by the time an officer gets to the scene, but of the most recent complaints, four resulted in charges being laid against the dog owners. In one case, the owner of two dogs was issued a court summons for each pet after admitting to leaving them in the car for an hour and 15 minutes while the temperature outside was 31 degrees. Another dog owner was charged after leaving a dog in the car during a fitness class. A fire crew was dispatched and rescued the dog from the car and a Bylaw officer took the dog for a veterinary check up before returning the pet to the owner. The Calgary Fire Department is routinely dispatched if an animal needs to be freed from a hot vehicle and the owner can’t immediately be located.

“Fire crews are often the first responders to these calls and we understand firsthand how quickly pets can overheat and sustain serious, life threatening injuries or death,” said Jayson Doyscher, Public Information Officer with the Calgary Fire Department.

“We work closely with Animal & Bylaw Services on these calls and we urge pet owners to ensure the health and safety of their pets by not leaving them unattended in their vehicles.”

Animal & Bylaw Services, the Fire Department and the Calgary Humane Society suggest that on hot days, pet owners leave their dogs safely at home where they're comfortable.  On cooler days, if a quick errand results in a dog being left for a short period of time unattended in a vehicle, the windows must be left open to allow suitable ventilation.  The windows must not be open so wide that the dog has contact with people outside of the vehicle. It’s also recommended that water be left in the car for the dog to access.

If Calgarians do see an animal in a vehicle in distress, they are encouraged to call 3-1-1. These are treated as urgent requests and a Bylaw Officer will be dispatched to the scene to follow up on the complaint.

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