TORONTO — As the hot summer months approach, there will no doubt be an increase in news stories about dogs left in cars and the individuals that break windows to get them out. But what if there was a better way of dealing with an animal locked in a car that did not involve arguments, shattered glass and distressed pets? There are in fact a number of routes you can take when you spot a dog in a car that don’t involve any of the above; it’s just a matter of learning about all of your options.
One of the first things to do is to ensure that what you see in the car is in fact a dog. As silly as that may sound, there were a number of incidents last year where animal services arrived only to find an empty crate, a stuffed toy or something other than a pet in a car. When determining if it is a dog that you see, it is also advisable to peer into the vehicle from a distance, as the dog may become panicked by the sight of a strangers face pressed up against the window. The panic the dog experiences may then be mistaken for symptoms of overheating so it is important to ensure that the dog does not get frightened. While checking for the presence of the dog, you should also check if the AC has been left on, if there is a window fan in place, water and shade protectors surrounding the car. If you’re still uncertain about the dogs well-being call animal services, as they will advise you on the next step, such as squiring water for the dog through an open window or giving the dog an ice cube if it’s not overheated yet. If a dog is already experiencing heat stroke, then it is important not to give it ice, as it will cool it down too quickly and cause more harm than good.
Secondly, you should learn to recognize if the dog is actually in heat distress. If a dog is moving around, alert and panting at a regular pace than it is likely it is not in any immediate danger. However, if the dog is “unresponsive, with glazed eyes and excessive panting with lips pulled back, exposing bright red or purplish gums and a swollen tongue,” then it is a cause for concern and breaking a window may be your only choice. Otherwise you should go into any surrounding stores and get the store clerk to page for the owner of the vehicle or call animal services so they can guide you through the next step. If your judgement tells you that the car needs to be opened then you can also call Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) or the American Automobile Association (AAA) who will be able to safely and quickly unlock a car without any damage.
Lastly if you have the time to observe the dog, try to monitor how long the dog has been in the car and if its condition is worsening. Before you break any windows, make sure that the owner has not just run into a convenience store for a quick minute and is on their way back. If the dog is not in any immediate danger, then it is far more stressful for him to be in a car when the window is shattered and a stranger is pulling him out. So wait it out if you can and once again, call animal services to confirm what your next step should be. When the owner does return, it is important not to get argumentative but rather ask questions about how the dog is staying cool and use it as an opportunity to educate the owner. For instance, you could tell them that on average a cars internal temperature increases by one degree per minute compared to the outdoor temperature. So if you park your car for thirty minutes on a 90-degree day, the car will be 120 degrees when you return. At the end of the day, if you can avoid taking your dog with you in the car when you run errands, then it is the best way to avoid any unintentional incidents.