A Moment of Paws: When temperatures rise, keep an eye on Spot

With the weather warming and the restrictions easing, many of us have one thing on our minds – getting outside! But as we gear up for another summer, the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is once again launching its annual safety campaign, Too Hot for Spot®, to remind pet owners of the dangers of leaving animals in hot cars.

During warm weather months, we typically see animals being left in hot cars at beaches, near bike trails, and other parking lots associated with summer. However, this year we worry we will see more instances of animals being left in hot cars in places that many of us frequent while doing our daily errands. Grocery stores, the post office, and banks – these are places where we will say, “I’ll be in and out.”

But in the world we are now living, the reality is that trips to these places are going to take longer.

The average grocery store trip, according to the Time Use Institute, is approximately 41 minutes. This figure is based on pre-pandemic information. Grocery stores and other businesses now need to take extra steps to disinfect or limit the number of people allowed inside at one time – resulting in daily errands taking longer. Leaving an animal in the car for even a short period of time could be deadly.

Unlike humans, animals cannot efficiently cool their bodies. And while the windows in the car may be cracked, even with outside temperatures below 80 degrees, the inside of a vehicle can heat up to well over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. The stifling heat inside a car makes animals susceptible to heat stroke, and the onset of symptoms is rapid.

Health hazards aside, it is also against the law in Massachusetts to keep an animal confined in a vehicle when extreme heat or cold may threaten the animal’s health.

ARL launched its Too Hot for Spot® annual campaign seven years ago, and while pet owners should be well aware of the dangers of leaving animals in vehicles during the warm weather months, we sadly still see numerous examples of animals suffering and even dying every year, as the result of being left in the car.

Please, when it is hot outside, leave your dog at home. Set them up in a cool, humidity- and temperature-controlled room, give them plenty of water, and make sure to limit their outdoor exercise to the morning or evening hours when it is coolest.

Summer is here and we’re all ready to get outside. Please continue to keep yourself, your family, and your pets safe and healthy during these uncertain times. We’re all in this together.

To learn more summer pet safety tips, visit arlboston.org/too-hot-for-spot.

Dr. Edward Schettino is the President and CEO of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and has a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Pet questions? Email ARL at press@arlboston.org.