Most pet owners consider their cute companions to be a part of their families. I certainly feel this way about my two big dogs, a Great Dane and a Mastiff, and for this reason I would never leave them unattended in the car while I run errands in the sweltering Virginia summer heat. As a friendly reminder during the warm weather, and as a fellow animal lover, please remember to consider the following information if you take your furry friends in the car.
Most responsible pet owners know that an animal shouldn’t be left in a car in the extreme heat; however, you might not be aware that even moderate temperatures outside can be dangerous to an animal inside the car. A pleasant, 70 degree day can cause temperatures of up to a scorching 125 degrees inside a car within 5 to 10 minutes!  In addition, the anxiety and stress that a pet suffers due to the rising temperature and feeling of abandonment can amplify the serious health risk that your pet will overheat.
Even leaving a window cracked only minimally increases air flow inside the vehicle. To be effective, the window would have to be left down enough for the pet to stick its full head out the window. This, too, can be risky. Not everyone out there is an animal lover, and giving strangers access to your pets – and car – could have harmful consequences.
If it is absolutely necessary for your pet to be in a vehicle unattended, you can minimize the risk to your pet’s health by taking the following precautions:
- Limit the time to a few minutes.
- Park under a tree or in a shady area.
- Have water available inside the car while you’re gone – Bass Pro Shops carries a plastic, spill-proof portable water bowl for only $14.99.
- Consider getting a battery operated fan for your pet.
Pets cannot tell us if they are in need of help, so the responsibility falls on us to act as their advocates and protectors. If you see an unattended animal in a car struggling to breathe or in distress, call your local animal control. For your own favorite furry creatures, consider finding “pet friendly” stores and even some restaurants (usually with outdoor patio seating) that will allow you to keep your pets with you (and out of the car) during your daily activities.
Have a safe and wonderful summer with your family and pets!
About the Author: Kathleen is a Fredericksburg accident attorney with the Virginia personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen. She handles all types of injury cases including car accidents and premises liability in Fredericksburg, Garrisonville and the surrounding areas.