Police warn: Keep pets out of hot cars

With temperatures already having approached 90 degrees around Centre County earlier this week, local officials are urging pet owners not to leave their dogs or other pets in their vehicles unattended.

Even with windows partially opened, temperatures in cars can reach dangerous temperatures in a matter of minutes.

On Tuesday, state police in Lamar, Clinton County, charged a Mill Hall man with cruelty to animals after they said he left his Jack Russell terrier locked in his vehicle at a Kmart parking lot in Bald Eagle Township.

Police said the dog, Toby, was found in the front passenger seat of the Ford Freestyle with no water, and was “panting profusely.” Outside temperatures at the time measured 86 degrees, police reported.

And local meteorologists said when the outside heat is that hot, the heat inside a vehicle rises rapidly, exceeding the outside temperature.

While officials say they get few reports of animals being left in a hot car, Ferguson Township Police Chief Diane Conrad said she already has heard of a few reports of the sort already.

“The majority of those complaints come from people who see a dog stuck in a vehicle in a parking lot during the summer with the windows rolled up,” Conrad said. “In most cases, the owner is located or, by the time we arrive to the scene, the vehicle is already gone.”

The cases are few, Conrad said, but in severe cases, animal cruelty charges can be filed.

Patton Township Police Chief John Petrick said his department gets a few cases as well.

“Our guide is to treat your dog as you would a human,” Petrick said. “If you wouldn’t leave a child in a hot, locked vehicle, don’t leave your dog there.”

National Weather Service Meteorologist Craig Evanego said the general temperature measurements are that if it’s 90 degrees outside, a vehicle within 10 minutes can heat up to about 110 degrees. In 20 minutes, the vehicle can then reach 120 degrees, and within a half-hour, a vehicle can get as hot as 125 degrees.

If you open a window, Evanego said, “It makes a little bit of a difference, but it’s not substantial.” The inside of the vehicle will still be hotter than the outside temperature, he said.

For animals, specifically dogs, Metzger Animal Hospital veterinarian Dr. Shelly Mannino said their body heat rises faster than humans, and they can suffer heatstroke.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include panting, discomfort, seizures and unconsciousness.

“With summer, people are out and about more, but they have to be careful with their pets,” Mannino said. “Dogs will keep going even when they shouldn’t. You can get a goofy young dog that will go beyond what it’s capable of.”

When there are signs of pet neglect, Mannino said the veterinary clinic will reach out to law enforcement or animal advocates. However, she said she sees few, if any, a year.