Dogs in distress

New signs in town parking lots call attention to dangers of leaving pets in hot cars

BRATTLEBORO — You wouldn't leave your dog trapped in a hot car, would you? Some people do, and such heat can kill. Local resident Barry Adams is doing everything he can to educate the public about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars.

Through Adams' efforts, signs were recently posted in several municipal parking lots warning drivers about the danger that hot cars pose to dogs. Adams also is leading a community awareness event later this month as part of his role as a volunteer with RedRover's national My Dog Is Cool campaign.

On Saturday, May 25, Adams and his partner, Kevin Maloney, former chairman of the Brattleboro Planning Commission, will dress up in puppy costumes and hold umbrellas as they talk with families at the Harmony Lot, one of the municipal parking lots where dogs have been found in hot cars. They will provide summer pet safety fliers, posters, and other giveaways from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In October 2012, the Brattleboro Transportation Committee approved Adams' proposal to have signs posted in municipal parking lots, including the Brattleboro Transportation Center, the Harmony parking lot, and the Preston, Harris, and High-Grove lots. The signs, funded by an anonymous donation to the town, remind pet owners that heat in enclosed vehicles kills pets.

Adams had worked with town officials since 2007 to develop the plan, and received strong letters of support from several national and local animal groups such as RedRover, Vermont Veterinary Medical Association, Windham County Humane Society, and the Vermont Animal Cruelty Task Force.

In the spring of 2011, Brattleboro began including warnings of the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars on all dog license applications and all dog license renewal forms.

Each year, authorities are called to respond to emergencies involving pets left in hot cars, Adams notes.

“By posting signs and engaging the community, we hope to reduce these incidents,” said Adams. “Leaving a dog in the car while running errands can literally be a death sentence. As the heat inside a car quickly rises, dogs suffer irreversible organ damage and, eventually, death. Brattleboro residents and visitors need to be reminded that the safe choice is to leave your dog in a cool house.”

Adams says there are five reasons why leaving a dog in a car on a warm day can be deadly:

• Dogs are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness, as they can only cool off by panting, and through the pads in their feet.

• Even seemingly mild days are dangerous. In a Stanford University study, when it was 72 degrees outside, a car's internal temperature climbed to 116 degrees within an hour, with most of the rise happening in the first 15 to 30 minutes.

• Enclosed cars heat up rapidly. In a San Francisco State University study, when it was 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car rose to 99 degrees in 10 minutes, and 109 degrees in 20 minutes.

• A dog's normal body temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit; a dog can withstand a higher body temperature for only a brief period before suffering irreversible nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage, or even death.

• Studies show that “cracking the windows” has little effect on a vehicle's internal temperature.

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