Monday, June 11, 2012

A Locked Car is NO PLACE for a Pet.

Firefighters finally broke the back window of this death trap
A dog died in this car yesterday. A one-year-old Chocolate Lab/Weimeraner mix was left alone for over three hours in the backseat while its thoughtless and ignorant young "owners" - a couple from Val Caron, near Sudbury - presumably wandered around Vaughan Mills Mall, northwest of Toronto. Apparently a couple of the windows were opened a very miniscule amount, but not nearly enough to keep the temperatures inside of that car from reaching unsurvivable levels (it was about 30 degrees outside the car when the dog was found, likely 2-4 times that much inside); certainly not when the car was left in the direct sun for several hours.

A Chocolate Lab/Weimeraner mix
According to the reports I have read, including on The Star's website, a passerby noticed the dog (similar to the one pictured here) "in distress" in the locked car at about 2:15PM and notified mall security. Security personnel notified emergency services and went out to the car, where they tried to splash water into the backseat, although I don't fully understand what they hoped to gain from this. Firefighters arrived after a while and they immediately broke the back window to release the trapped dog, but it was too late to save its life.

A year earlier to the day a police dog died in the backseat of a squad car in Pennsylvania. A week after that the same thing happened in Huntsville to another Chocolate Lab. Later last summer, it happened again in Tennessee, only this time all the windows were down and the owner "checked on" his dog "every 10 minutes".

In this age of "Information Overload", when there are easily-obtainable facts at the click of a mouse and news stories - especially tragic news stories such as these - will reach us in North America almost within moments of them happening anywhere in the world, I find it absolutely unfathomable that there are still people out there who are competent enough to have a license to drive a car and to be able to feed and shelter a pet that are somehow completely oblivious to the mortal danger they are putting that same pet in every single time they leave them in a locked car for even a couple of minutes, especially in the summer heat. The poster shown at right can be found on a terrific British website called Don't Cook Your Dog. (Note: if you visit that site a podcast starts up immediately. I tell you this so you are not alarmed by it, because I found it to be rather loud. If you want to stop the podcast from playing, scroll about 1/6 of the way down the right-hand side and you will find a very tiny media player bar.) That is a terrific website which is full of information, advice, posters you can print off to start your own campaign and many other useful things.

It also contains a link to this PSA-type video, which attempts to shock people into understanding the message (with words and non-offensive imagery):

The first video I linked to (in the opening line of this post) offered three pretty good bits of advice as well, which I am transcribing here:
1) Never leave your dog in a parked car on a hot day, not even for a minute
2) If you see an animal left in someone else's parked car in the heat, notify a store employee right away
3) If the pet's owner isn't located immediately, call animal control or the police
The problem I have with this advice as it pertains to what happened yesterday is that the passerby and the security people did everything "right" according to that list, but the dog died by the time the firefighters broke the window. Now, I am not advocating wanton destruction of private property here, but I will say without fear of contradiction that I personally would not have waited for the firefighters to arrive: I would have broken that window myself and brought the dog out of the car immediately. I understand why some people (even "Mall Security" officers, or perhaps especially them) might be reluctant to react in that extreme manner; I am only putting forth my personal position on the subject.

But what I would do is really of no consequence here. What really matters is getting people to understand that they must never ever leave any living creature inside a car even if the windows are down. There is absolutely no excuse for doing so, not even "I was only gone for a minute".

Just don't do it. Ever.

Maybe some day that incredibly simple message will finally sink in and we never will again have to hear the story of yet another tragic and avoidable loss of life. As I am a consummate cynic, I doubt that day will ever come. I would so dearly love to be proven wrong about people, just this once.

*****UPDATE: June 11, 5:40PM - even as I was writing this blog piece today it happened again in Toronto, only this time the dog didn't die. Completely baffling to me is the fact that this owner had her dog returned to her after only paying a fine of $260, even though she lied to the police. She said she had left "a bottle of water" for the dog to drink (as if that would somehow make any difference to a dog dying of heat prostration) but the cop on the scene said no water was found. It's quite clear to me that there needs to be some sort of training and testing procedure for people who want to adopt pets, because obviously trusting pet owners to do their own research is just not working out all that well.


  1. Penguin,

    It is my opionion that people are inherently selfish and self centred and dare I say it, stupid. They simply don't give enough of a shit about their pets, from the people who let their animals roast in a car down to those inconsiderate knobs who let there dogs bark incessantly. What I don't profess to know, is what do we do with these people. Clearly they shouldn't be allowed to enjoy the responsibility of pet ownership, but how do you stop them? What is an effective deterrent to this irresponsible behaviour?

    P.S. don't ever stop being a cynic. It's good to know there are at least two of us.

    1. I wish I could disagree with you, hoof. I simply cannot. But then I've thought about finding a way to have people pass a test before they procreate, so this is not new ground for me.

      Re: stop being a cynic - I think it's safe to say that, at this point, there's no way that's ever going to happen. :)

    2. THree of us, hoofheartz. And I have similar feelings about many human parents, too. But how do you stop this crap? :(

      Great post, Steve!

      People. Leave your pets at home when it's hot!!!!

    3. Thanks, Nat. I didn't know of any of those specific cases from last year until I did a very small bit of research for this blog post. But that furthers my point: if I can do it just to write this piece, then anyone can learn what not to do with their pets. I love that "Don't Cook Your Dog" site (although I would have said "Pet") and I wonder if a similar campaign would work here. I don't know if there's really any other answer, though, than mandatory pet lessons before you can adopt - and much bigger fines if you adopt illegally.

      It's always nice to hear that I am not the only cynic around. It can get quite lonely "in here". ;)

    4. Gordon's a cynic too. It's not pretty when we rant together. ;)

    5. Hoo, boy. I'm lucky that Sarah still is not as bad as me. I think I'd spin out of orbit if I didn't have that tether! ;)

  2. Although I agree with all your sentiments, I just can't believe a car could reach 2-4 times 30 degrees Celcius... Four times is past the boiling point of water but even two times is unrealistic. I think you were confusing Celcius and Farenheit since a black car parked in the California sun can reach 120 degrees Farenheit (thank you Mythbusters!)

    But yes, bring back the death penalty for anyone who commits cruelty to animals. It won't prevent this from happening but it will prevent repeat offenders! :>

    1. Thanks for your comment.

      I invite you to have a look at this page for some confirmation of what I said. Note that the car at 3PM is 185F inside and 96F outside, or 85C vs 37C. This is between 2-4 times hotter, as I posted in my blog. There are many other sites that support this statement, easily uncovered by a rudimentary search. It might be tough to get to 160C, indeed, but I think it's fairly clear that to say "even two times is unrealistic" is not factual. As a Canadian who learned his temperature scales before the metric system took hold, it's very unlikely that I would confuse the two!

      Also, I expect you are guilty of the same hyperbole as you thought I was using in my post when you mentioned the death penalty; however, I am against Capital Punishment as a rule for any offense. I thought I should perhaps get that out there on record.

      Again, thanks for the comment!


I've kept my comments open and moderation-free for many years, but I've been forced to now review them before they post due to the actions of one member of my family. I apologize for having to take this stance, but that's the way the world is headed, sad to say. Thank you for your understanding.

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