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Pet owners are not getting it

Dog owners, parents, people you are not getting the message.

Despite the hundreds of articles and pleas from SPCA, Dog Control and the RCMP dog owners are still leaving their dogs (and sometimes even their children) in sweltering hot cars.

In fact, just today (Friday), in West Kelowna a dog and a child were noticed in a car in the westside WalMart parking lot when it was over 32°C outside.

By the time the off-duty cruelty investigations officer noticed the child and dog and got WalMart staff to call the RCMP, the mother had returned to the scene with a full shopping cart implying she had been gone some time.

Kelowna SPCA Manager Suzanne Pugh says the off-duty officer first noticed the dog, when she got close to the vehicle she also saw a child, around 5 or 6-years-old, inside.

“Our officer told her this obviously wasn't acceptable and at the point it was left in the hands of the RCMP,” explains Pugh who says the interaction between the mother and her officer was less than pleasant.

Because the mother returned so quickly and the officer was off-duty a heat reading was not done, but considering how hot it is outside Pugh is in disbelief.

“Honestly, really?” says a frustrated Pugh. “It is the life of your child and your dog, it is not acceptable.”

And the problem is not Kelowna's alone.

Despite on-going warnings and public service announcements about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars, BC SPCA constables are being inundated with calls this summer to rescue pets left in parked vehicles.

In June alone, the BC SPCA responded to 228 calls to rescue dogs in distress who had been left in hot cars by their guardians.

“The media is wonderful about helping us get the message out that it can be fatal to leave your pet in a hot car, even for 10 minutes, but still we receive hundreds of calls about animals in distress,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA. “We can’t stress strongly enough how dangerous this is for your pet.”

With temperatures soaring across British Columbia this week, hitting high 30s in the Okanagan, the SPCA is urging people to leave their pets at home if they can’t keep them safe.

“The temperature in a parked car, even in the shade with windows partly open, can rapidly reach a level that will seriously harm or even kill a pet,” says Chortyk. “Dogs have no sweat glands, so they can only cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws.”

Dogs can withstand high temperatures for only a very short time – in some cases just minutes - before suffering irreparable brain damage or death.

Pet guardians should be alert to heatstroke symptoms, which include: exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting), rapid or erratic pulse, salivation, anxious or staring expression, weakness and muscle tremors, lack of coordination, convulsions or vomiting, and collapse.

If your dog shows symptoms of heatstroke, you should do the following:

  • Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place
  • Wet the dog with cool water
  • Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This will cool the blood, which reduces the animal’s core temperature.
  • Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow, which will inhibit cooling.
  • Allow the dog to drink some cool water (or to lick ice cream if no water is available)
  • Take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment.

“If you’re used to letting your dog accompany you on errands, you might feel guilty leaving him behind on hot summer days. But your dog will be much happier – and safer – at home, with shade and plenty of fresh cool water,” reminds Chortyk.

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