My pets are my fur-kids...and an animal rescuer's first instinct upon seeing a pet in a hot car is to get the pet out as quickly as possible. In today's world, we must always take a step back and think about our actions, however, and contemplate some outcomes.
Please do not misunderstand me (everyone knows MY opinion on saving lives!), but breaking someone else's car window IS destruction of property and "you" will most likely be held liable for any damages.
I know - the life of an animal is more important than a car window...but the owner of the pet and car may not see it that way.
The best, first, idea is to evaluate the pet and call the store manager closest to the parking space so they can make an announcement and then call the local animal control or non-emergency police line and report the car (make, model, color, license plate, etc) and then wait for the authorities to arrive. Even if we see this as an emergency, human emergencies are reserved for 911. The police dispatcher can then direct you over the phone what to do, if the dog is in dire need of extraction, but sadly, lawsuits for destruction of property on a car can be started and YOU may actually be at fault, especially if the pet was not in need of immediate help.
...I know, I know...a dog in a car on a warm day deserves something better...right?
Something to Consider:
* There are actually professionals (such as myself) that leave our dogs in cars, when we go on lessons, field trips, to trials, or other locations...especially if our dogs are integral parts of our business. This does not mean we don't love our animals...but it does mean we take every precaution to ensure our pets remain safe while we need to leave them in the car.
*** For me, this means my dogs are kenneled in the crates, but all windows are open, sunroof is open, hatch is open and I am parked in the shade, knowing that this shady spot won't change for the length of time I am not in my car. In addition, fresh water bowls are with them and even frozen stuffed Kongs to help entertain them while I am gone. If a lesson is running over what I'd like, I interupt the session to check in on my pets, walk them, turn on the A/C for awhile while we work outdoors where I can watch, and cool them off. I am very aware of my fur-kids in the car...and they are extremely happy when they go places, show off as Demo dogs, go on field trips, and are just with me. Both are VERY car-savvy dogs and we travel A LOT.
*** I am more than happy to explain the whys to anyone who questions me or is concerned for my pets' welfare...because I DO care. This does not mean you have to be argumentative or berate me, however, especially if you do not know the situation at hand and my dogs are in no danger. I HAVE had officers come out to check on my dogs, left in the car, when concerned owners have called in...and both times they reported that my dogs were happy, healthy, friendly, and NOT in any danger, because they were NOT exhibiting any signs of distress. But the fact remains...someone else cared too. All I have to say is this: Please do not waste an officer's time with situations that are NOT dangerous, so consider the following:
Is the dog REALLY in need of help? To determine this:
* Is the dog is sitting, observant and not panting or panting slowly, but the tongue is only partially sticking out...this dog is most likely not in need of immediate medical attention yet, so you should take the time to make your phone calls and find the owner if you are concerned.
* look for the dog's comfort level. If a dog is actively barking/growling/lunging at you, you may actually be INCREASING the likelihood of heat stroke or heat-related health complications. Stay a safe distance away so you can observe and not actually aggravate a territorial or scared animal. Look for signs of heat-related medical concerns:
** rapid/heavy panting - this means the tongue is sticking out far, opening the dog's airways as large as possible to exchange heat; this is different from just a normal pant/exchange of air.
** dark tongue and thick saliva - take into consideratioin dog breed - a Saint Bernard, for example, is going to have thicker saliva because of conformation, but if a dog is having slimy or foamy drool while doing heavy panting, there is cause for concern.
** extreme restlessness/pacing combined with the above would give me more cause for concern, especially if the pet is looking for a way out. (Don;t confuse this with car anxiety - look for other symptoms also).
** sometimes vomiting will accompany these symptoms
** extreme lethargy or collapse means the body is shutting down and this dog is in need of immediate medical attention.
*******Heatstroke is deadly in a very short amount of time; on a 78degree day, a car in the shade can be well over 90degrees in minutes and in the sun can reach over 160degrees.*******
So...if you see a dog in a car on a hot day...call somone. If that someone is NOT able to get to the car in time, there are some reports of people collecting witnesses to attest that the dog is in immediate danger and the only way to save their life is to break into the vehicle and cool off the dog. Other reports indicate that "you" will be found guilty of committing a crime and only authorized personnel can open the vehicle without the owner present.
In a perfect world, the owner will come out before this needs to happen and you can help the owner cool off the dog. If this is not the case, however and you decide to risk the liability and intervene, please remember that cooling off a dog too quickly may also result in complications, so some good "rules of thumb" are:
** Bring the dog into an open-ventilated area; remember air EXCHANGE is important in a pet's cooling ability, and surrounding air quickly heats up with panting, so a wide area in the shade may be better than a confined area.
** If possible, bring the pet to an air-conditioned area, but remember to make sure air-exchange can also occur; a closed vehicle may NOT be appropriate, even if air-conditioned, due to smaller spacing.
** Provide a SMALL amount of water to drink in short intervals. Heavy drinking while warm and panting can pre-dispose a pet to bloat or other life-threatenting emergency situations.
** Spray the dog down with water, concentrating on the foot pads, under the armpits, stomach and groin area. Cool water but NOT ice. Ice can actually constrict blood vessels, making it harder for the pet to cool off. Cool water and cool rags over the femoral (inside rear thighs) arteries and in the armpits can help cooler blood circulate, which can cool the dog more effectively.
** Transport the pet to a local veterinary hospital. Just because the pet is cooling off, does not mean the pet is okay. IV fluids may need to be started for hydration and blood-work can show if kidney or liver damage was sustained. If the pet was overheated for too long, there may also be irreversible neurological issues that need to be documented. It is also very important to take the pet's temperature and monitor for OVER-cooling, or possible hypothermia. There is also a complicated blood problem called Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (known as DIC) that can be a fatal complication of heat stroke and a vteerinar office is the best place to be after heat stroke.
** A bad side: The risk you take with a pet not your own is also a potential liability and some veterinary offices CANNOT treat a pet that is not your own and you WILL be repsonsible for all charges accrued.
Heat Stroke is NO joke...If you notice a pet in distress, CALL THE AUTHORITIES IMMEDIATELY and ask for guidance and assistance. Let them know it is an emergency situation and they should respond, not only because a life is at stake...but because leaving a pet in a car is actually punishable by law in many states.
Until next time!
CVT & Owner of Awesome Paws Academy