Yesterday, I wrote about Chinese authorities stopping a truck jam-packed with 800-plus dogs bound for slaughter. Today, I read a story about a truck with nearly 1,000 small animals crammed inside — including birds, chickens, bunnies, and guinea pigs – and left in the searing heat in Fresno County, California. The temperature inside the truck surged to 107 degrees. By the time the police arrived, notified by neighbors who reported an odor coming from the truck, the heat had claimed 18 animals. Ten more died after authorities got into the vehicle and started pulling them out.
These animals were not bound for slaughter, but for sale at pet stores. It’s a reminder of our home-grown problems here in the United States.
It’s also a reminder that with the first day of summer coming tomorrow, there are acute hazards for animals in transportation. Cars and trucks heat up extraordinarily fast, even with the windows down, as temperatures soar outside. Even on an 80-degree day – which residents of many parts of the country would beg for this time of year – the temperature inside a car can climb to nearly 100 degrees within 10 minutes.
Summer after summer, we shake our heads as we see a cascade of news stories about dogs dying after being left in hot cars. First responders on the scene to rescue animals left in hot cars make heartbreaking discoveries: claw marks left on the door, ripped seats, nail particles strewn in the vehicle.
In addition to building awareness that prompts better behavior, we are also attacking the problem from a policy angle. In recent years, we’ve convinced more than half of the states to pass laws to allow private citizens to break into cars and free animals from life-threatening circumstances. This year, lawmakers in Arizona, Colorado, and Indiana took final action on these so-called “Good Samaritan” measures, and Oregon Governor Kate Brown can sign the bill on her desk to do the same. Sixteen states now allow certain public officials to rescue animals in hot cars (Nevada passed a bill this year to improve and expand their provisions) and 10 states allow members of the public to rescue animals in hot cars provided certain steps are taken. Even more states grant immunity to first responders who must rescue animals in distress or prohibit leaving pets unattended altogether.
Intervention is carefully defined and kept as a last resort only to be used when all other options have been exhausted and the animal is in visible distress. But all responsible pet parents would sacrifice a car window to save the life of their animal. When it comes to property versus the life of an animal, that’s not a close call.
The safest thing you can do for your pet this summer is to leave him or her cool at home while you run errands. Take the pledge to never leave your pet in a hot car.