Cars are death traps in the heat

Call the authorities if you see a pet locked in a vehicle

The author teaches writing at Butte College and is a freelance writer, editor, tutor and social-media consultant.

Imagine you get up one summer morning and your mom or another family member hands you a big, ankle-length fur coat. You put it on. After breakfast, your family member takes you for a ride in the car, and you love feeling the wind in your hair. But then your family member parks, cracks the windows, gets out, and walks away.

It’s late morning, already hot in Chico, and within just a few minutes, the interior of the car is well over 90 degrees. You start feeling uncomfortable—and thirsty—but your hands won’t work on the door handles, you can’t get out of the car, and hardly any air comes in through the windows. You cry a little bit, but nobody passing by notices. After a while, you’re so hot you start to feel sick. You can hardly breathe.

This is what your dog experiences when you lock it in your car while you run off to do errands. People won’t subject themselves to that kind of experience; why do they subject a member of their family, their dog, to such torture, which can easily become a death sentence?

Advocating on behalf of dogs locked in cars with windows only slightly cracked has become one of my projects, because I’ve noticed way too many dogs in Chico suffering this plight. Apparently, ignorance prevails about what dogs experience when locked in cars. Please, be educated, and help me educate others, and please don’t leave your dog locked in your car!

Cars are like furnaces for dogs. In fact, the temperature inside can reach 100 degrees in 25 minutes when the outside temperature is only 75 degrees. Consider these words from “Humidity interferes with animals’ ability to rid themselves of excess body heat. … Our four-legged friends only perspire around their paws, which is not enough to cool the body. To rid themselves of excess heat, animals pant. Air moves through the nasal passages, which picks up excess heat from the body. As it is expelled through the mouth, the extra heat leaves along with it. Although this is a very efficient way to control body heat, it is severely limited in areas of high humidity or when the animal is in close quarters.”

If you encounter a dog in a car that’s showing obvious signs of duress and imminent heatstroke, please call Chico Animal Control or, after hours, the Chico Police Department. Save a dog’s life; don’t walk away in apathy.