Many of us have heard the news stories. An irresponsible parent, pet owner, or babysitter goes into a grocery store or other establishment for a long period and decides to bring their pet or child along for the ride. However, they decide to leave them in the car when the temperature is unreasonably hot for being left in a vehicle over an extended period.
Often, these are the types of stories that do not have happy endings. The child or pet is often harmed by the exposure to the heat while the person responsible receives bad publicity via news sources or is held legally responsible in some way. Aside from the bad rap that someone can receive by this careless decision, it is often dangerous.
The dangers of leaving a helpless animal or child in a confined space during hot weather can leave them seriously injured, even to the point of death. Aside from the physical dangers that it poses, it also makes the person responsible look neglectful towards their responsibilities as a caretaker. In many cases, this can be considered abuse and is punishable by law.
Why It’s Dangerous
Cars will heat up very quickly, regardless of what the weather might be. With this in mind, it is not safe to even leave a dog or child alone in a car with the window cracked. This air-conditioning method does very little to cool down the internal temperature of the vehicle while still keeping them confined to it. In general, no living thing should be in a vehicle for an extended period under hot weather conditions.
One commonly overlooked aspect when people decide to leave their children in the car unattended is that their bodies heat up much quicker than ours. Their undeveloped bodies make them more susceptible to getting heat stroke. Since dogs cool themselves down by rapidly panting and sweating through their paws, they are also prone to reaching a dangerous body temperature if left unattended.
Even though they might be of a different species, dogs can suffer from the same heat-related symptoms that humans can. Pets tend to become dehydrated more quickly than humans. Excessive heat combined with the anxiety of being in a confined space induces stress in dogs, causing them to heat up even quicker.
When dogs experience heat stress, other health complications can soon follow. Their heart rate increases and they often pant to the point of hyperventilation. Heat exposure in a hot vehicle can cause them to shake, vomit, or become unconscious.
Illegal in Certain States
Many countries have laws which make it illegal for anyone to leave a child in the car unattended. Many of these countries or states also have regulations that make it illegal to leave pets in the car unattended as well. Even in jurisdictions where doing so is not necessarily illegal, there are Good Samaritan laws in place which mandate than any passerby acts to save a child or pet from a parked vehicle.
If you need to take your pet or a child with you when you run errands, do both them and yourself a favor by taking the extra couple of minutes to get them out of the car safely. If possible, leave them at home with an alternative guardian. It is better to be slightly inconvenienced than to put the life of a child or animal in danger, much less your criminal background.
From Jenny Holt, freelance writer and mother of two. She loves nothing more than getting away from it and taking her pet Labrador Bruce for long walks, something she can do a lot more now she’s left the corporate world behind.