Leave your pets at home

Animals can quickly perish when left in a vehicle on even a remotely warm day

The author is animal-services manager for the city of Chico, and founder of The Mustang Project.

The city of Chico Animal Services would like to remind residents that leaving your pets in a vehicle, even on a moderately warm day, can become life-threatening in a very short time.

According to a study from Stanford University, during a day when the outside temperature is 72 degrees, the inside of a car can reach 117 degrees within 60 minutes, with the majority of the temperature rise occurring within the first 15 to 30 minutes. On average, a car’s internal temperature will rise 19 degrees during the first 10 minutes, 34 degrees within the first 30 minutes and 43 degrees within the first 60 minutes, maxing out at a rise of 45 to 50 degrees in the first one to two hours. Leaving the windows cracked, even as much as 8 inches, has little effect on the heating process.

As an animal’s body temperature continues to rise, heat stroke will set in and the animal will collapse, become unconscious and start to have seizures. If left untreated, this will lead to death.

Dogs in the back of a pickup truck or camper shell are also susceptible to heat stress or heat stroke, as well as burns to the pads of their feet. In California, it is a misdemeanor to leave animals in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger their health or well-being; the owner can face both fines and jail time.

If you see an animal in a vehicle on a warm day, try to find the owner. If the animal is showing signs of heat stress or heat stroke—such as heavy panting, glazed eyes or drooling—call Animal Control or the Police Department. Give them the vehicle information and wait by the car if possible to direct the officer. If you can, offer the animal water through an open window while waiting.

Keep your pets safe this summer by leaving them at home. Never leave them unattended in a vehicle, even for a few minutes. For more information, contact Chico Animal Control at 897-4960.