According to Waterloo Regional Police, officers responded to eight calls about pets left in vehicles in July.
Experts say it’s a common problem that doesn’t seem to get better.
“We need to constantly remind people of the dangers of leaving pets in cars even when the temperatures seem mild,” said Calla James, director, community engagement and outreach at The Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo and Stratford Perth. “They are not inside a vehicle even with a cracked window.”
According to Provincial Animal Protection Services With an outside temperature of just 25°C, a car’s interior temperature can reach 34°C in as little as 10 minutes and up to 50°C after an hour. Examples of visible signs of distress that may indicate heat stroke in animals include excessive panting, increased drooling, weakness, muscle twitching and vomiting.
“If an animal can’t come with you, the safest place for them is to be left at home,” James said.
James said it was not enough to just leave the animal in the vehicle with the air conditioning on, as it can sometimes malfunction and shut off.
“We’ve seen car batteries die, we’ve seen AC power outages and this pet is left in a very dangerous situation. So there really is no excuse,” James said.
James suggests that if you can’t leave the animal at home, bring someone who can let the animal out of the vehicle during stops, or be sure to visit pet-friendly stores.
“These are just not reasons to leave a pet in a vehicle because even if you did, a temperature can reach very high temperatures and quickly,” James said.
Animal cruelty is enforced provincially in Ontario, but municipal law enforcement officers and local fire and police departments are often the ones to remove a distressed animal from a vehicle. They also have the power to enter vehicles if necessary.
“As part of the Waterloo Fire Service regulations, they have powers of extradition and they would act on behalf of the province to do so,” said Nicole Papke, director of municipal law enforcement services at the City of Waterloo.
Local pet owners said they are always looking for ways to keep their pets cool when taking an animal outside.
“We usually choose dog-friendly options. There are a lot of great local businesses around that have a window for pickup,” said dog owner Emma Boyd.
Boyd said choosing to order things like groceries online has kept him in the vehicle with his nine-month-old golden doodle.
“We find it really helpful. Just roll down the windows and he can kind of appreciate what we’re doing,” Boyd said.
“If I’m not going to be in the car, I take it with me,” said fellow dog owner Jan Richards. “I think it’s horrible, because even if you leave the window open, it’s too hot for them. And it’s so small, I can’t imagine how long it would last.
Anyone who sees an animal in distress in a hot car should call 911 immediately and not attempt to enter a vehicle in these situations.