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Hot Car Fatalities And Pets


It’s no secret that most dogs - and even some cats - love nothing more than riding in the car with their humans. But too often, soaring summer temperatures and everyday forgetfulness combine to create deadly situations for pets. It has been estimated that between 1,800 and 2,000 pets die in hot cars every year. Contrary to popular belief, this can easily happen on cloudy days, in shaded parking spots, and in cars whose air conditioners have been left running. 


A Stanford University study found that when the ambient temperature was just 72 degrees, a car’s internal temperature reached 116 degrees in less than an hour. A separate study showed car temperatures reaching 109 degrees in 20 minutes on an 80-degree day. With limited abilities to sweat and thermoregulate, a pet in a hot car can pass away in as little as 15 minutes. Tragedy can strike even faster for pets who are older, overweight or dealing with chronic health conditions. Brachycephalic, or “smushy-faced” breeds such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Persian cats, are overrepresented in heatstroke deaths, even when cars are not a factor. Particular care must be taken to keep these vulnerable breeds safe on hot summer days. 


Since cars that are left running with the air conditioner on are likely to stall in the summer heat, turning on the AC for your pet can create a false sense of security. Additionally, the chaos factor comes into play. A client who is a police officer recently shared a story of being called to a parking lot where a dog was left in a car. Her owner turned on the air conditioner and left her pet alone while she was getting a manicure. The excited dog bounced around the car, and accidentally bumped the switch to the vehicle’s AC compressor. The car filled with hot air in minutes. Despite her owner’s good intentions, the little Schnauzer did not survive.


As a general rule, if a human is not in a car, a pet should not be in a car. When planning your day, err on the side of caution and bring pets home before running errands that involve leaving pets behind.  To reduce the risk of forgetting a pet in your car, place phones, wallets, purses, and keys in the back seat next to them. You won’t get far without these crucial items - and you won’t forget your pet. 


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