A father who left his 22-month-old son in an SUV in Atlanta on a hot day is now under investigation for the boy’s death. The story’s been front page news across the nation, and it's a vivid and tragic reminder that any creature – a toddler, a dog, a cat or another – who’s unable to get out of a hot car, is vulnerable to the punishing and fatal effects of trapped, searing heat.
What’s even more shocking is how often it happens: already, this is believed to be the 14th case of a child dying of heatstroke in a parked car this year – a statistic that reminds us that raising public awareness about the dangers of summer heat can save lives.
We at The HSUS for several decades have reminded people about the dangers of dogs in parked cars, especially during the summer months. Leaving a dog inside a car for a few minutes while you run out for a quick errand might seem harmless enough, but it can be deadly. On a balmy, 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the interior of a car to heat up to 99 degrees. Rolling down the windows has little effect. Quickly rising temperatures can often lead to brain damage or the pet could die from heatstroke or suffocation.
One way to remind yourself to stay committed and aware is to sign our pledge that you will not leave your dog or other pet in a parked car. Then, share it with friends, along with these tips on what to do if you see a dog in a parked car. The HSUS also has a great infographic that explains the dangers of leaving dogs in parked cars.
This Fourth of July, we also ask that you resist the temptation to bring your pet along on holiday travels to barbecues and other celebrations. Ask yourself if it’s in your pet’s best interest to be exposed to extreme noise, startling displays of pyrotechnics and frightening smells, when the alternative is an evening lounging on the bed at home, with the TV on to dampen the strange sounds of our nation’s birthday party. Here are some tips on how to give your pet a safe and happy Fourth. Mid-year is also a great time to double check your pet’s ID tags and microchip information and update or replace them as needed, and – as hurricane season rolls in — to come up with a disaster preparedness plan for your family and pets.
Many local and state governments are tightening restrictions on leaving pets in cars, and expanding law enforcement’s latitude to free an animal believed to be in danger. You can contact your local elected officials to discuss how your community can protect pets in this way. Let’s make it a priority to keep our pets safe and healthy.