By Mary Nee
Most dogs love being in a car curled up in the back seat or with their heads sticking out the window, their tongues flapping in the breeze. It’s their happy place. But as the weather gets warmer, a vehicle can be a dangerous, even fatal, place for an animal.
Animals do not sweat like we do, so they are unable to cool their bodies efficiently in the heat. Even with outside temperatures below 80 degrees, the threat of heat stroke persists, as the temperature inside a vehicle can rise well over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes – even with the windows cracked.
Symptoms of heat stroke include difficulty breathing, a lack of coordination, profuse salivation, vomiting, or seizures. If an animal is suffering from any of these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary attention.
Aside from the health hazards, it’s also illegal in Massachusetts to confine an animal in a vehicle when extreme heat or cold could potentially threaten the animal’s health. The law also allows first responders and ordinary citizens to intervene should it be determined that the animal’s life is in danger.
If you see an animal in a vehicle that you deem to be in danger, it is very important to take appropriate actions: Make reasonable efforts to locate the vehicle owner; notify law enforcement/call 911; determine if the vehicle is locked with no other means of entry.
After these steps have been exhausted citizens are allowed to rescue the animal. Please note that: You must believe that entry into the vehicle is necessary to prevent imminent harm to the animal. You don’t use more force than is reasonably necessary to gain entry and remove the animal.
The Animal Rescue League of Boston wants your pet to be healthy and safe this summer and in that spirit, prevention is the best solution. When it’s hot outside, leave your dog home in a cool, humidity and temperature-controlled room. If they are outside, find a shady spot with ample breeze to help prevent overheating.
Hydration is key! Always have a cool bowl of water accessible at all times.
Finally, and this is a caution that many people overlook: When it’s hot outside, limit outdoor exercise for your pet to times when it’s coolest – early morning or late evening. For more animal-related safety tips, please visit arlboston.org.
Mary Nee is the President of the Animal Rescue League of Boston and resides in Dorchester. Pet questions? Email ARL at firstname.lastname@example.org.