End the cruel and dangerous practice of leaving pets in hot cars

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I feel so blessed to live in a place where people love their animals!

What joy it is to live amongst my kind — humans who want to bring their dog everywhere with them, their precious companions and maybe, like I feel, their soulmates.

The thought of going to the river with my stand-up paddle board without my sidekick Alfie (a 5-year-old Goldendoodle) or on one of the many beautiful hikes the Gorge has to offer in all seasons, is, to be honest, dreadful. Alfie is my companion always, from going shopping, to friends’ homes, barbecues, dog- friendly events and even work. Alfie is happily by my side, showing me a fierce obedient loyalty.

I know there are so many dog owners who can relate to how this feels. They can relate to never wanting to be parted from their beloved pet, to think of them home by themselves, maybe pining away at the loneliness and fear of not being in our presence, makes your heart ache with empathy.

I get it, I truly do!

That is why it continually baffles me that there is one cruel and unconscionable behavior us humans do to these sacred souls who do nothing but share their love with us. We take such good care of our dog’s needs, go out of our way to feed our dogs the best food, let them snuggle in the coziness of our soft beds, keep them entertained with chuck-it balls and expensive dog toys.

Then why is it we only consider our own needs when it comes to an 80-degree day and leaving the dog in the car for only five minutes?

The truth is on an 80-degree day in a car with the windows cracked, within 15 minutes the temperature rises to 115 degrees (according to Stanford University). Maybe you enjoy hot yoga and this doesn’t bother you, but your dog will suffer even if he doesn’t die — and is it really okay to let him suffer? Can a person who loves and cherishes their best friend REALLY be okay with that?

A hot car is no place to leave a dog. If you don’t know how hot your car gets when its 80 degrees out and sealed up except for a cracked window, you must never have tried sitting in it yourself. Or could it be you are under the impression a dog can handle it better? The fact is, they can’t! The reality is they aren’t as efficient as humans at cooling themselves off. They have no way to sweat. Panting is NOT sweating! They are far more susceptible to heat stroke and dehydration. Maybe the thought hasn’t occurred to you that they will suffer brain damage. I’m mystified that despite the education available to all of us, and the laws created that prove this to be real (OR law HB 2732 passed unanimously allowing good Samaritans to enter vehicle to protect children and animals), that people continue to do it!

Unfortunately, there is no one agency that could give me a solid number of how many dogs die a year from being left in a hot car. However, the truth is it happens, it’s cruel, and now, because of some very informed humans, punishable by law.

According to the Hood River Police Department, there are typically one to two calls every day throughout the summer from concerned citizens seeing dogs left in hot cars. Luckily, due to the calls and the quick response of our community officers, we have had no fatalities this year.

I asked Rachel Cates, Hood River’s animal control officer, why this continues to happen. She said, “People just don’t understand. There is no time limit that’s safe. They think they are going to go in the store for five minutes and it easily turns into a longer trip. We are so grateful people call, and we get a lot of calls, but it can turn bad so fast.”

Another new concern Cates mentioned is the new keyless starter technology. People think they are leaving the animal in the car with the air on and don’t realize the systems can malfunction. This situation is very scary.

What’s the answer, I asked? Her response, “Keep it simple, I always recommend just leave your dog at home.”

A note from our friends at Hood River Adopt a Dog: They suggest that if there is a reason you must take your dog on a hot day, consider purchasing a high-quality car window baby sun screen (available on Amazon and fits all cars and most SUVs.) Janette Skarda, shelter manager, has tested it by sitting in her car on an 80-degree day for 30 minutes and felt comfortable.

But it remains that on a 90-degree day, I just leave my dog home.

Suzette Gehring works at Hood River News as a marketing specialist.

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