The main misconception that most people have when it comes to leaving their pets in their cars is that they think because the temperature outside of the car is warm and not hot, such as in the low to mid-70s, it is OK to leave the pet unattended while they go shopping and to run errands. Even when the outside temperature is in the mid-70s, the heat generated inside the vehicle can rapidly climb upward of 125 degrees and higher in a matter of only 5 to 10 minutes. When the weather is warmer, in the mid-80s to the 90s, the temperature can skyrocket to the 100s or more in a matter of just five minutes after the engine has been shut off and the air conditioning has stopped flowing. Most pet owners leave their windows cracked only slightly for the pets, leaving minimal air flow in the vehicle. Smaller pets, elderly pets and dog breeds with smaller snouts such as Pekingese and pugs already have breathing restrictions and being placed in a hot vehicle can be deadly in half the time than if those pets were another breed. Not only is it dangerous leaving a pet in the car if it is too warm, if it is too cold it can also be life-threatening to some pets, especially those that are susceptible to hypothermia such as reptiles and very young or elderly animals.
Society as a whole can help save pets lives by keeping others informed about the danger of leaving pets in vehicles. Being an advocate for helpless pets and calling animal control or the sheriff immediately if you feel a pet is in danger is the best way to help save a pet that isn't yours. If you must leave your pet alone in the vehicle when it is warm outside, it is essential to leave the windows down and cracked enough so the pet can stick its head out of the window. Leave the animal plenty of water to stay hydrated. The best way to prevent heatstroke or hypothermia in a pet is to not take the pet for a ride in the vehicle unless you will be there or the pet will be supervised the entire time. You can also take the pet inside with you, if possible, rather than leave it unattended in the vehicle.
The heat inside a parked vehicle on a warm summer day can reach up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of just 30 minutes, causing heatstroke, paralysis, stroke, seizure and ultimately death. The air circulation is minimal in a parked vehicle, leaving the animal gasping for breath even in a 75- to 80-degree vehicle with no ventilation. Leaving an animal in a car can result in the dog dying, or being seized by animal control as well as a possible arrest of the owner. Harsh penalties are given to animal abusers and a charge of animal cruelty is a felony punishable by the law.
There is no safe time frame in which to leave a pet in the vehicle. Think of a pet as you would a small child who couldn't talk. One should ask themselves how long they would leave a child unattended in the car and would they leave the child in the car--the answer likely would be no.
The long-term health effects of leaving a pet in a vehicle unattended can be deadly with a heatstroke taking the life of an animal in less than 60 minutes with only 15 minutes causing a severe amount of brain and internal organ damage in which the effects are irreversible. Mental issues such as abandonment can develop, making the dog act out abnormally with aggression and bad behavior such as biting, mauling, and having elimination and urinary accidents inside the house
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