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Rise in Temperatures Creates Rise in Animal Control Calls

July 16, 2013

As the temperatures rise, so does the number of calls for animal control officers regarding pets left in hot cars.

"Leaving a dog in a hot car is just like leaving an infant in a hot car," local veterinarian Geri Carlson said. "You don't do it."

Albemarle County animal control officers are seeing a rise in calls for pets left in cars, in line with the rise in temperatures.

"What we're looking for are dogs that are trying to get away from the heat and heavy panting," animal control officer Larry Crickenberger said.

Officers use a special thermometer to gauge the temperatures inside cars. Crickenberger said the highest he's seen in a car is about 160 degrees.

On Tuesday as part of an experiment in the 89-degree heat, the Newsplex crew cracked the windows in a station vehicle and let it sit in the sun for 20 minutes. Under the seats, where pets might try to find some shade, was 85 degrees. The trunk was 97 degrees, the back seat was 105 degrees, and the dashboard topped at 116 degrees.

"Their internal body temperature will get very, very high," Carlson said. "They can have seizures. They can go into kidney failure."

"They have fur coats on. Their body temperature normally runs about 102," Crickenberger said. "Once it reaches 107, there could be irreversible brain damage."

If a pet overheats, Carlson says to cool it down with tap water or water from the hose. But there's a warning with the hose -- Carlson says to let out the water sitting in the hose first since that can get pretty hot itself, ultimately burning a pet.

"People don't think about that, and I've seen scalding where they were trying to cool their dog down but the water had been sitting in the hose," she said.

There are penalties for pet owners who leave dogs or cats in the car for too long.

"If it was severe enough where the dog had been left an extended amount of time and is showing some type of medical issue, they could potentially be charged with cruelty," Crickenberger said, adding the charge comes with a fine and possible jail time.

Officers say the best thing for the public to do if there's a pet in distress is to call 9-1-1 and wait with the pet until animal control arrives. If the owner comes back first, cancel the original call.

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