Hot vehicles can pose a danger for pets

New laws go into effect July 24

Camas-Washougal Animal Control Officer Rick Foster doesn’t want to see pets being left in hot vehicles.

Unfortunately, he’s had to witness this situation a lot lately — even when temperatures soared toward 100 degrees.

Recently, Foster saw several people exercise their dogs at the Stevenson Off-Leash Dog Area located at 2801 Addy St., in Washougal. When they finished, the pet owners locked the animals in their vehicles and walked into the Bi-Mart next door to shop.

“It gets hot really quick,” he said.

On July 24, new animal protection laws stemming from a bill signed by Gov. Jay Inslee in May go into effect. Senate Bill 5501 makes it a civil infraction to leave an animal inside an unattended vehicle, if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of water. The fine is $125.

The law also allows a licensed officer to enter a vehicle if the conditions may endanger the health and well-being of the animal.

Foster admitted that his efforts to educate pet owners by explaining the law and the impacts of excessive heat on animals are not always well received. But, he added, their feelings are not his primary concern.

“It’s all about the dogs,” he said.

While temperatures have cooled significantly during the past two weeks, this week highs are still expected to be in the 80s. Foster recommends leaving pets at home when temperatures are forecasted to reach 70 degrees or higher.

“It’s for the dogs’ safety. People don’t realize the high temperatures can cause brain damage,” Foster said. “It’s for the owners too, because there are penalties involved.”

According to the Animal Protection Institute, on an 85 degree day the temperature inside a car, even with the windows left open, can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 in one hour.

Calls to the Clark County Animal Protection and Control department increase when temperatures go above 70 degrees, and concerned citizens seek advice or assistance.

“This can lead to intense interactions, which can be avoided with planning and protection,” said Paul Scarpelli, Animal Protection and Control manager.

Scarpelli echoes Foster’s advice to leave pets at home, with plenty of water in an area with shelter, adding that dogs should not travel unsecured in the bed of a pickup truck. Scarpelli recommends they be exercised in the morning or evening when heat is less likely to cause exhaustion and pavement is less likely to burn their paws.

“By the time we hit 90 degrees, temperatures earlier in the day may have already had an impact that can snowball quickly,” Scarpelli said.

Signs of heat stroke in an animal include excessive panting and salivation, glassy stares, dizziness, sluggishness and vomiting.