Here in the Northwest, when nature finally turns off the downspout and shows us some clear blue, it goes to our heads. Shorts, sandals and sunglasses on, we grab the keys and head out with our best buddies. But if your buddies are dogs, and they wait in the car while you dash into the store for “just a minute,” the wait can be deadly.
On a 75-degree day, the temperature inside your car will rise 29 degrees in 20 minutes. That’s 104 degrees, even with the windows cracked for air.
Stop to chat with a friend or get stuck in a slow checkout line, and the car is 109 degrees in 30 minutes. More time equals more heat, and in an hour the inside of the car is 118 degrees.
These statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association are part of a longstanding effort to prevent the hundreds of pet deaths that happen every year in hot cars. More recently, advocacy groups have worked to change laws in eight states so citizens can legally break a car window to save an animal or child. So far that doesn’t include any Northwest states. In Oregon and Washington, only law enforcement or humane officers have legal authority to break into a hot car, but nearly identical bills pending in both states could change that. If passed, the bills would protect citizens from civil or criminal penalties if they call 911, break a window, and stay with the child or animal until help arrives.
Until then, your legal option is to call 911 if you see animals in dangerously-heated cars. And, of course, you can help spread the word, with friendly reminders or printable flyers like this one from the AVMA. https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Documents/petincar_heat_poster_high.pdf.
Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know that she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.