Letnick: Hot dogs are for summer picnics, not vehicles

Many people mistakenly assume they will “just be gone for a minute” and their pet won’t start to suffer in that period of time.

This has been a summer of frustration for those trying to prevent senseless losses and tragedies in these hot, dry months.

But this time, I’m not talking about wildfire danger and the seemingly endless reminders about campfire bans and carelessly-tossed cigarette butts. I’m talking about the dangers of leaving pets sweltering inside hot vehicles.

Every summer, the BC SPCA and other animal welfare groups warn us about how quickly a dog will start to suffer when left inside a vehicle in hot weather. Yet people continue to do it. We’ve heard story after story of dogs being rescued from cars—if they’re lucky. Others have perished after the suffering became too much to bear.

The B.C. SPCA notes that the temperature in a parked car, even in the shade with the windows partially open, can quickly reach a level that will seriously harm or even kill your pet. Leaving the air conditioning on is also a risk, as many pets have died as the result of a faulty system.

What’s more, dogs and cats cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws.

On summer days the air and upholstery in your vehicle can heat up to temperatures that make it impossible for them to do so.

Many people mistakenly assume they will “just be gone for a minute” and their pet won’t start to suffer in that period of time. Trouble is, even the quickest errand can turn into an unexpectedly long trip.

Maybe it’s tougher to find the product you went into the store for, or you’re stopped by an old friend and get distracted as you catch up.

You can leave your pet in the car with the best intentions of returning quickly, but other circumstances can get in the way of that happening.

It takes just 10 minutes for your pet to be seriously harmed in the heat.

The B.C. SPCA advises it is simply better to leave your pet at home where it has access to cool areas, water and other comforts.

There are steep consequences for those who fail to heed this good advice.

People who expose animals to excessive heat or deprive them of adequate ventilation can be charged under B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

The act carries the toughest penalties in Canada, with maximum penalties of $75,000 fines and two years of imprisonment.

The B.C. SPCA does a great job of looking out for vulnerable animals and pursuing these types of penalties when infractions do occur. Our government was pleased to support their work in Budget 2015, where we provided $5 million to upgrade SPCA shelters and facilities in multiple communities including Kelowna.

We’ll have more to say on this serious issue soon. Until then, please heed the warnings about leaving pets in hot cars so we don’t hear of any more senseless tragedies.