A better option: leave pets home

Published 6:30 pm Friday, May 30, 2014

The temperatures inside a car can go up quickly even on a mild day. The following shows estimated air temperature inside a car in comparison to outside temperatures.


Elapsed Time             Outside Air Temperature

75                   85                   95


10 minutes                94                   104                 114

20 minutes                104                 114                 124

30 minutes                109                 119                 129

60 minutes                118                 128                 138




Difficulty breathing/sudden rapid breath, blank or anxious stare, abnormally red gums and tongue, disorientation or sudden collapse, dizziness, lethargy, excessive thirst, lack of coordination.



When a pet is overheated, apply cold towels to the head, neck and chest or submerge/run cool water over the animal. Allow small amounts of cool water to drink. Take the animal to a veterinarian regardless — internal damage isn’t obvious even if a pet seems to have recovered.


In summertime, temperatures regularly soar into the nineties. For most, that means cranking up the air conditioning to avoid getting overheated. But pets left in parked vehicles don’t have that choice, and even milder air temperatures can pose a serious health risk to animals — and more quickly than one might think.

Last week, the Washington Police Department put together a flyer about the danger, urging local residents to call the police anytime they see an animal left in a vehicle, including vehicles with the windows cracked, just to be safe.

“Just because you leave a dog in a vehicle does not necessarily mean that the dog is not being taken care of,” said Washington Police and Fire Services Director Stacy Drakeford. “It depends on the circumstances: how hot it is outside, are the windows rolled down, is there water in there.”

Many pet owners, however, aren’t aware that on a sunny day, even mild outdoor temperatures can cause temperatures inside vehicles to rapidly escalate, according to Washington Police Department Animal Control Officer Lois Blackstone.

On a 75-degree day, after 10 minutes, the temperature inside a closed vehicle can reach up to 94 degrees; after 30 minutes, that figure rises to 109 degrees. Take the temperature up to 95 degrees outside and inside that car, it may be 114 degrees within 10 minutes. At 110 degrees, a pet may just have minutes to live.

Blackstone has served in the animal control capacity for the city for the past year. In that time she’s answered several calls regarding animals locked in vehicles: five, last year; two so far this year, though summer has yet to officially arrive. Blackstone encourages pet owners to leave animals at home if a trip means leaving an animal in a parked car.

“If they’re not going to keep the car running and keep them cool, they should just leave them at home,” Blackstone said. “If (the errand) is going to take more than 10 minutes, they should just leave them at home. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.”

According to North Carolina law, law enforcement, animal control and rescue officials can enter any vehicle confining an animal if they believe that animal’s health is at risk, but they must attempt to locate the owner first.

Just such an incident occurred last week at a local shopping center in Washington, when a patron noticed a small dog had been left in a parked car. After a 20-minute shopping trip, the dog was still there. At that point, Blackstone was called to the scene and the owner of the vehicle paged four times in the store before they returned to the car. According to authorities, the pet owner was not receptive to the warning about the dangers of leaving an animal in a parked car.

Earlier this month, a Franklinton woman was charged with animal cruelty — a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 45 days in jail — after she left two dogs in a parked car for almost three hours while she shopped at a Wake Forest Walmart, according to authorities. Both dogs died in the 120-degree heat inside the car; outside, the temperature was 80 degrees.

“If you can’t take care of your pets, leave them at home,” Drakeford said.