PENTICTON - A dog can have brain damage if left in a hot car for 10 minutes but knowing that isn't going to stop people from leaving their pets in vehicles.
"The overriding thing is no matter how much information we put out, no matter how much we publicize this... it's been happening already," South Okanagan Similkameen SPCA manager Jamie Armer said. On Tuesday SPCA staff were dealing with a dog owner who left his pooch in a car.
The dog owner visited the SPCA office on 2200 Dartmouth Rd. asking for his pet. He found it missing when he returned to his vehicle.
Earlier that day, when the temperature was 38 C, an RCMP officer was called to a parked car on Lakeshore Drive. He found a dog in a hot vehicle. He removed the animal and brought it to a local veterinarian. The dog was fine and returned to the owner. Armer spoke with the young man who was "gutted" with guilt. The animal was left in the vehicle for 45 minutes.
Armer said people cannot leave their pets in parked vehicles no matter what the conditions. He wants animals to remain at home. Even if it is 26 C outside, the temperature inside a car can hit 37 C in 10 minutes and 43 C in 20 minutes. A dog's normal body temperature is 38 C. The animal's cell and organs will be damaged when its body temperature hits 41 C. Windows cracked down do nothing to prevent this.
A veterinarian posted a video to Youtube showing how useless windows are when rolled down an inch or two.
Armer said the SPCA takes many calls from worried passersby when it gets warmer. These cases can be difficult to reach. The Penticton branch has a part-time provincial constable but he covers an area stretching from Hedley to Castlegar and down to the U.S. border, up to Peachland and everything in between.
Armer said when the SPCA gets a call, the animal in question has probably been in a vehicle for longer than 10 minutes. Then the SPCA has to decide whether to call their constable, go out themselves or get someone at the scene to solve the problem. The trapped animal could be injured or dead by the time an SPCA staff member arrives.
If an animal is in a parked car at a restaurant the SPCA will ask restaurant staff to question their customers but a business owner might be reluctant to disturb patrons. Superstore, Wal-Mart and other large operations are the opposite.
"You walk into those places and ask for them to put a call out with a license plate number and they will do it instantly and repeatedly. And that's on top of them putting up our posters to remind people as they are coming in. So we've got different avenues to help us out. But there will be cases where we have to go."
When an SPCA staff member attends a scene they look for signs of heatstroke which include exaggerated panting, bright red gums, rapid or erratic pulse, thick saliva, anxious or staring expression, muscle tremors, poor co-ordination or vomiting. The animal might also have collapsed by this point.
Armer said SPCA staff will call the RCMP who have never failed to respond. The RCMP have the authority to force a window open or break it open which is something SPCA staff cannot do.
"The biggest thing for the public to understand is an SPCA member is by no means allowed to break windows and remove animals from cars," Armer said. "Our responsibility starts when the animal is in distress." Even then staff can only spray water and drop ice cubes through windows left open a crack or look for the vehicle's owner. Once the animal is free it is taken to a vetinarian for examination and possible treatment.
"It has to go to a vet. The justification for breaking that window is the animal was in distress."
For more information call (250) 493-0136 or visit the South Okanagan/Similkameen SPCA website. The Kamloops SPCA office can be reached at (250) 376-7722. Click here for the website.
The Vernon SPCA office is available at (250) 549-7297 and The Kelowna branch is at (250) 861-7722
To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at email@example.com, call 250-488-3065 or tweet @shannonquesnel1
An animal vet shows how hot a car's interior can become.