It was one of our reporters who first noticed the little dog locked inside a Mercedes SUV across from The Post-Record on a warm Tuesday evening.
The owners had left the windows cracked and the SUV was parked in partial shade, but it was still about 65 degrees outside — much hotter in the SUV.
Worried for the dog’s safety, the reporter called the local animal control office. But they were closed for the evening. In Oregon, a new law allows people to break a vehicle’s window to rescue a dog or child trapped in the heat. But in Washington State, only police are allowed to do that type of “smash and release” rescue.
The advice found online said we should take a photo of the license plate, call 9-1-1 and wait for help.
We went outside and discovered that the vehicle had no license number, just two dealer plates from Freeman Motor Company, a Southwest Portland company that specializes in high-end vehicles.
The dog was barking and our reporter said the SUV had been there for at least 20 minutes. Being journalists, we quickly looked up the stats: studies show that the inside of parked vehicles — even those in the shade with their windows cracked — rise approximately 19 degrees in the first 10 minutes, 29 degrees in 20 minutes and 33 degrees in 30 minutes, regardless of outside temperatures. After 20 minutes in the SUV, the dog was probably coping with temperatures over 95 degrees.
Before calling 9-1-1, we followed the Oregon Humane Society’s recommendation — “alert management of nearby businesses to make an emergency announcement.”
The Sushi Joint was nearby, so we went inside and told the employees what was happening. Several diners looked alarmed and quickly noted that it wasn’t their car or their dog. But a couple dining near the front looked up from their sushi.
“It’s ours,” the man said, not looking too bothered by the situation. Probably because he was sitting inside, in air-conditioning, instead of inside an SUV where it was rapidly approaching 100 degrees. “Our dog just barks when people pass by.”
We told the man and his female companion that their dog looked like it was in distress and that we were on our way to call the police, so we were glad we’d found the owners.
The couple hesitated and, instead of getting up and walking outside, the man argued that it wasn’t too hot, that he had never heard that you shouldn’t leave your dog in a car when it was hotter than 60 degrees outside and that the windows were cracked.
We told them again that we would call the police.
Finally, the woman stood up and said she was going to go get the dog. We watched to make sure that she followed through.
The entire scene was disheartening — if you’re going to take your dog with you and you want to stop for dinner, find a place where the dog can sit beside you, at an outdoor table. The Sushi Joint actually has outdoor seating, but we’re guessing this couple felt better inside, in the air-conditioning. Too bad they didn’t give the same consideration to their dog.
Since it’s only mid-August and daytime temperatures aren’t likely to fall below 60 degrees any time soon, we wanted to offer some tips from the Oregon Humane Society regarding dogs and hot vehicles.
“The temperature inside a car rises to dangerous levels for dogs in just a matter of minutes, even with the windows cracked,” OHS states. “It only takes five to 10 minutes for heat stroke to affect your pet.”
Here is what they recommend doing if you see a pet in a hot car: Write down the vehicle make, model and license plate; alert management at nearby businesses to make an emergency announcement; call local police or animal control; and then stay by the vehicle until help arrives.
We are thankful that our reporter used her journalism powers and noticed this little dog stuck inside a hot, stuffy SUV. Had she not reacted, this story could have had a horrible ending. Be aware. Don’t leave your pets in the car — and if you see someone who has, do what reporters do and say something.