Hot temps mean real risks for pets

With some hot summer days still in sight, pet owners should take extra care to keep their furry companions cool while they’re out and about.

In April, the Virginia General Assembly passed an amendment to state code that allows law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel and animal control officers to take companion animals “at risk of serious bodily injury or death” from a car. The amendment removes liability for damage caused by those personnel forcing entry into the car, like when breaking a window.

Sgt. James Darr, with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control division, said it hasn’t yet been necessary for anyone in his division to force entry into a vehicle to save a pet. Some pets that Animal Control has saved from unlocked cars have been cooled down from around 102 degrees.

He said Animal Control has gotten from 20 to 30 calls about pets in hot cars so far this year – many of them left in shopping center parking lots – and several people have received misdemeanor charges because of it. He said those who notice a suffering pet in a car should call local authorities, record license plate information and try to wait at the vehicle.

“Usually they call us and we get there in a pretty quick time – and that also helps us with our court case because we can adjust the time it takes us to get there with the time they’re in the store,” he said.

Capt. Donnie Lang of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said there have been a few more calls about pets in hot cars than usual this year. He said it’s easy for people in a rush to forget about what they’ve left waiting in the parking lot.

“It doesn’t take long. Unfortunately, a couple minutes turns into 15 to 20 minutes unexpectedly,” he said. “I just don’t think people realize how quickly a car can heat up and what happens inside a vehicle.”

As a rule of thumb, Darr said that if it’s sunny and 80 degrees or higher outside, pet owners should leave their pets at home in the air conditioning, since car temperatures can jump to more than 100 degrees within 10 minutes or so.

“If you’re sweating and you’re out in the car, your dog’s doing it twice as much,” he said.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com