When officers heard about a dog trapped inside car on a hot day, they knew its situation was desperate. But, when they arrived on the scene, they realized the heat the animal was enduring could be deadly. So, they had to race against the clock to save the pet.
Riverside County Animal Services is responsible for the welfare of animals in Riverside County, California. It runs a shelter and vet clinic and encourages people to look after their pets in a responsible way. It also has wardens that operate throughout the region to protect creatures in need.
In June 2017 two of these wardens attended a scene in downtown Riverside. A member of the public had called to alert them of a dog locked inside a car. It was a hot day and the animal was thought to have already been in the vehicle for half an hour.
When wardens reached the scene, they realized how serious the incident was. “When I arrived, I found a pit bull puppy in a white Impala,” Animal Control Officer Cecelia Morris later revealed in a video posted to the Riverside County Animal Services YouTube channel.
“When I got out of my vehicle I could hear whimpering and panting and whining,” she added. “And I looked inside the vehicle and saw a small, eight to ten-week puppy that seemed to be in a little bit of distress because of the heat.”
As a result, Morris called her sergeant to help her free the puppy. Because one of the car’s windows was slightly ajar, the duo were able to gain entry without breaking any glass. To do so, they used a set of tongs they carried for containing reptiles.
After retrieving the pup, the wardens rushed her to the shelter to receive treatment. However, that was not before they took a temperature reading from inside the car. And, what they read on their thermometer sickened them.
According to their readings, the interior of the vehicle was 133 degrees. As a result, the dog – named Misty – was lucky to be alive. “It does not take long for a dog to expire in a hot vehicle,” John Welsh of Riverside County Animal Services told CBS Local 2. “This could have been a lot worse.”
“This puppy was very fortunate that we were able to get [it] out of the vehicle in time,” Morris added in the Riverside Animal Services YouTube video. “The puppy’s temperature was a little higher than normal.”
However, Misty was lucky compared to some of the animals Morris had encountered. “I have taken dogs out of cars that were unconscious,” she revealed. “Then, when we took them to the vet they were determined to be brain dead.”
Back at the shelter, vets cooled Misty down by giving her a bath and placing her in front of a fan. After that, they released the dog back to its owner – a man in the Riverside area. They fined him $100 for the act of neglect and charged him $150 for taking care of the pup. However, they said they would not press animal cruelty charges.
Leaving a pet unattended in a vehicle is against the law in California. But to prove a person is guilty of the crime, prosecutors must prove the confined animal’s heath was in danger. This could be down to a range of factors including heat, cold or lack of ventilation.
So, in some ways, Misty’s owner got off lightly. However, that didn’t mean he didn’t have to face criticism from the general public. Animal rights organization PETA even weighed in on the subject.
They issued a statement in response to what had happened. In it, they revealed that in 2017, 22 canines had already died in hot cars in the United States. All for the sake of their owners running a little errand.
“On a 78 °F day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 °F and 120 °F in just minutes,” the PETA statement read. “On a 90 °F day, interior temperatures can reach as high as 160 °F in less than ten minutes.”
“If you see a dog showing any symptoms of heatstroke – including restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy and lack of appetite or coordination – get the animal into the shade immediately,” the statement warned.
Overheating animals can quickly suffer from heatstroke. It only takes 15 minutes for the condition to claim a pet’s life. And it’s particularly dangerous for dogs, whose only way of keeping cool is by sweating through their paw pads and panting.
If members of the public do notice a dog trapped in a hot car, PETA advises them to take down the car’s details. They should then alert the local authorities and have someone ask around local buildings in an attempt to locate the animal’s owner. Most importantly, the organization urges, they should stay at the scene until the issue has been sorted.
In California, where wardens discovered Misty, worried citizens also have another choice. If a person fears for an animal in a hot car, they can legally break a window to free them. However, they must first contact law enforcement and only act if they believe help will take too long to arrive.
But, with that said, the best way to prevent deaths is to not leave dogs in cars at all. Luckily for Misty, help got there in time. But, if no one was around, the dog’s fate could have been much worse.