"It only takes 10 minutes": BC SPCA on the dangers of leaving pets in hot vehicles this summer

The BC SPCA urges pet owners to never leave animals in a vehicle unattended. (Photo/ Storrm Lennie)

Summer is coming in hot, and the BC SPCA wants to remind pet owners that it’s never acceptable to leave your pets in a vehicle, even if the AC is on.

Eileen Drever, Senior Officer Protection and Stakeholder Relations with the BC SPCA, said it takes as little as 10 minutes for animals to succumb to hyperthermia (heat stroke).

For older dogs, puppies, and flat-nosed brachycephalic dog breeds, Drever said it could take even less time than that.

“If the dog is like a flat-nosed breed, with the pushed-in noses, they have a difficult enough time breathing as it is, because they have small nasal openings and long soft palates which limit their airflow on a good day, so never mind in hot weather. They’re really susceptible to hyperthermia.”

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If you see a dog locked in a hot car, Drever said to note the license plate number, vehicle color, as well as the make and model, and then contact nearby businesses to page the owner to return to their vehicle immediately.

If you notice the animal is showing signs of distress, she said to contact the police or the BC SPCA’s Animal Helpline for help.

“Those signs could be shivering, muscle stiffness, if they’re lethargic and they have pale gums and they’re a bit confused, then those are symptoms of hyperthermia, and they need help right away.”

Dogs sweat through their mouths, explained Drever, which is how they regulate their body temperatures. That’s why even a vehicle with air conditioning on still isn’t enough to prevent your pet from getting heat stroke.

“Dogs can’t sweat the way we do. They try to reduce their body temperatures by panting and they actually sweat through their pants so it’s still too warm for them in air conditioning, and with certain types of cars, the AC can break down.”

Under the BC Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the maximum penalty for leaving an animal in a vehicle is $75,000 or up to 2 years in prison, along with a prohibition from owning an animal again.

Drever said the BC SPCA has charged pet owners for fatally leaving their dogs in their cars in the past and urges pet owners to do the right thing and leave their pets at home when it’s hot out.

“It’s best to leave them at home if you can, provide them a cool space to be. They depend on us to keep them safe. It’s usually people who love their dogs or their pets and they take them everywhere with them, but it only takes 10 minutes and the animal’s life is worth more than that.”

To report a pet in distress, call the BC SPCA’s animal helpline at 1-855-622-7722.

Drever said while staff is limited in some communities, the animal helpline will provide you with other resources to contact for immediate assistance.

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