When temperatures rise to 100 degrees or more, as they did recently, pets left in a car — even for “just a minute” — can die.
In fact, most charts that show the outside versus inside temperature of a car go up only to 95 degrees outside. At 100 degrees, though, the car acts like a greenhouse, and, within 10 minutes, it can get up to 130 inside.
Studies have shown that leaving the windows cracked open has very little effect on the interior temperature of the vehicle, according to the Humane Society of the U.S.
It’s been hot enough that the Yavapai Humane Society has taken extra precautions, spokeswoman Elisabeth Haugen said.
“We’ve had to put in place restrictions, as far as our volunteers helping us walk our dogs, because of the excessive temperatures,” she said. “Any animal that’s older … or overweight, or has a thick fur coat, is really at risk.”
What can you do if you see an animal in distress inside a car?
In May, Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a bill that allows you to free the animal (or a child, for that matter) from the car by breaking a window without fear of legal liability, but you have to make sure the following apply:
You must have a “good-faith belief” that the animal is in “imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death;”
You must determine that the vehicle is locked and there’s no other way to remove the animal;
You must first call a law enforcement or an animal control officer;
You must use only the amount of force needed to extricate the animal.
“We always recommend they call the police right away and let us make the decision to break a window or not,” Prescott Police spokesman David Fuller said. “In this weather, it will be a priority for us to respond right away.”
He added that, if the animal is in obvious distress, the person would have to make their own judgment call as to whether they should wait for help to arrive or break a window.
Prescott Valley Animal Control Supervisor James Risinger said his department had been on about ten calls for dogs in cars over this heatwave.
“Our officer carries a digital thermometer that reads the temperature inside the cars,” he said, and “some of these temperatures have reached up to 124 degrees.”
Risinger said none of the dogs was hurt or died as a result of the incidents, but that several of the owners said “they thought their shopping would be fast and the dog would be fine.”
Fuller suggested that, if you see an animal locked in a car, you should check to see if the car is running, because sometimes people leave their pet in a running car with the air conditioning on to cool the animal.
Another option, if you don’t want to break a window, is to go inside the business where the car is parked and ask a staff member to make an announcement.
There is a city ordinance in Phoenix, passed last year, that prohibits tying a dog outside in such a way that “unreasonably” limits its movement, when the temperature hits 100 degrees, when a heat advisory has been issued or when a monsoon, hurricane, tropical storm, dust storm or tornado warning has been issued.
Prescott and Prescott Valley do not have a similar ordinance, but Chino Valley Police Lt.
Vince Schaan said the town doesn’t allow dogs to be tied out any time unless a person is “physically present with the dog.”