Be a Joe Cool, Not a Hot Dog (by guest, Erin Rath)

Most pet owners know that leaving an animal in a hot car endangers their pet’s health. But how hot is too hot? And if you see a pet left in a hot car, can you help?
A San Francisco State University study found on days as cool as 70 degrees (Fahrenheit), a vehicle’s internal temperature reaches 100 degrees in roughly twenty minutes; on an 85 degrees day, it reaches 120 degrees in only a half hour. Cracking the windows did not impact the rapidity of the increase.1 Running the air conditioner in a parked vehicle had minimal impact on the increase, as the air became stagnant after ten minutes.3 You can see a visual of what happens inside a heating car here. (Note: Look for the car picture towards the bottom of the page. Once you click on it, a new window will open.)
Dogs cool themselves by panting, which uses surrounding air to reduce body temperature. Panting fails to become effective when the former becomes hotter than the latter. Additionally, panting is less effective for certain breeds, including Bulldogs, Pugs, and Pekingese. Normal internal temperature for dogs ranges between 101 and 102.5 degrees. Temperatures higher than 103 degrees become dangerous. Consequences of hyperthermia in dogs include breathing problems, irregular heartbeat, kidney failure, seizures and even death. The dog should be taken to a vet even if it appears to have recovered, as the adverse consequences can take several days to appear. 5
Sioux Falls’ citizens concerned about an animal’s immediate welfare should call 911, and an Animal Control officer will respond as soon as possible. There is no minimal temperature required before the animal can be removed. If the officer feels the animal is endangered, s/he can forcibly remove it from the vehicle. The owner will incur a minimum of $125 in fines and fees. (This figure includes a $95 animal cruelty citation and a $30 impound fee. The Humane Society also charges an $8 per day boarding fee. Additionally, the owner is responsible to repair any damage to their vehicle, assuming the officer had to break in to rescue the animal.)4 Citizens in other communities are encouraged to call their local authorities, should you come across a dog at risk of overheating.
I hope this information will encourage you to leave your pets at home when possible, and speak out for animals unable to help themselves. One way you can advocate for vulnerable animals is by signing my petition. By doing so, you pledge to leave your own pets at home when possible, and to call the authorities if you see an animal left in a potentially hot car.
Thank you for for your time and attention!

1. Jan Null, Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University, as published in Pediatrics

2. Cited on the American Veterinary Medical Association website – http://avma.org

3. Interview with an Illinois animal control officer found on the AVMA’s website

4. E-mail correspondence with Sioux Falls Police representative

5. Heat Stroke and Dehydration in Dogs and High Fever in Dogs, both found on WebMD Pet Health - http://pets.webmd.com/

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