Hot weather is expected this week and as temperatures reach the high teens and 20s, pet owners are being reminded to leave their furry loved ones at home when going out in their vehicle.
With close to 1,000 cases of pets being left inside hot vehicles across B.C. in 2017, the BC SPCA finds itself continually having to remind people about the dangers of leaving animals in cars — even if you think it’s only for a short time.
“Please, leave your pets at home,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA. “You might just be running into the store for a moment, but then there’s a line up or something else and that turns into five, 10 or even 15 minutes.”
She said it takes as little as 10 minutes in a hot car for a pet — quite often a dog — to suffer brain damage, organ damage and even death. Thankfully, Chortyk said, only one of those estimated 1,000 cases resulted in a pet dying.
However, she encourages people not to play the odds. And each time there’s a spike in temperature, the BC SPCA puts out the now-familiar warning that the weather can risk the lives of people’s pets if they accompany them in their vehicles.
“People don’t seem to get the message,” said Chortyk, adding that may be because people have done it in the past and nothing happened to their pet.
“People forget, or they’ve done it before and nothing happened. But no one wants to play Russian Roulette with their pets.”
Chortyk said pets do not perspire the same way humans do. It’s mainly through their paws, so regulating their heat inside a hot car is almost impossible — even if the vehicle is parked in the shade, the windows are cracked and there’s a dish of water inside.
The best thing people can do, she continued, is leave their pets at home when you know it’s going to be warm or hot outside. If they do, they could run afoul of B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Chortyk pointed to a well-publicized case a few years ago of the Act being applied when a dog walker in Vancouver left animals in a hot vehicle and six died. The individual got six months in jail. Chortyk recalls another incident where someone left their dog in their car when they went into an airport to pick someone up. The flight was delayed and by the time they returned to their vehicle, the dog was dead.
Chortyk said no one wants to lose their pets that way, so why take the risk?
As more people become aware of animals in distress during warm weather, Chortyk said they are reporting it more and more often to the SPCA or local police. The BC SPCA has a toll-free hotline — 1-855-622-7722 — for people to call when they find an animal locked in a car in the heat.
The BC SPCA does not advise people to break windows in vehicles to rescue animals, but instead to call the number and determine if an animal is in distress. If it is, Chortyk said they can direct people on how to help and who to call. Causing damage to vehicles puts people on the wrong side of the law, she explained. Asking local police to respond when animal control officers or SPCA employee are not available, is a better option.
To prevent the problem in the first place, Chortyk said there are resources — such as posters and cards people can leave on windshields — available at www.spca.bc.ca
Chortyk said more information about an issue that’s “one hundred per cent preventable” can help save animals — even if it’s one life.