This summer, you’re probably looking to head off on a break with the family. And as you’ve got one, or a few four-legged friends (you wouldn’t be reading stories on this site if you hadn’t), then you should be seriously thinking about how to keep them comfortable and happy throughout the journey.
Modern cars, equipped with air conditioning, climate control and other ways of regulating their interior temperature, whether just for a limited time or on a constant basis, make it more civilized than ever for we humans to travel in them over long distances.
The efficiency of many of these systems has probably given many of us a false sense that our pets can withstand the heat and long journeys which we, as humans, now find it easy to tolerate.
But dogs (and cats) aren’t able to regulate their body temperatures in extremes of conditions as well as we humans, so they just can’t tolerate the changes in temperatures which are found in a car – especially when the engine’s off and consequently, so is the air con.
The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), the professional body representing veterinarians country-wide, plays a prominent role in raising awareness of the dangers posed to the health of domestic animals when they are confined to a vehicle for prolonged periods.
This year, it has taken great steps to emphasize that many pets which suffer don’t do so because of deliberate mistreatment – but many simply die “because they [are] left in cars on warm (and not necessarily hot) days while their owners were shopping, visiting friends or family, or running errands.”
“What’s so tragic is that these beloved pets were simply the victims of bad judgment,” it continued.
It has gone on to publish a table showing how, when a car is parked in outside temperatures ranging from 72 degrees Fahrenheit to 96oF, the temperature inside the vehicle rises by 19 oF in just 10 minutes, and by as much as 50 oF in two hours.
Emergency Calls Soar In The Heat
Police and emergency services always say that they get a spike in calls during hot weather, from people concerned about the welfare of a dog or dogs left in a car. And that’s despite, in many cases, owners believing they are taking adequate precautions by leaving windows partly open.
Let’s get this straight – yes, the air-con in a car does work while the engine is switched off. But it can’t get the power it needs to operate at maximum efficiency unless the engine is on, and, ideally, the car is moving. The engine is the generator which is powering the air-con system, so if it isn’t switched on, or even only idling, the car’s occupants don’t get the full benefit.
And of course, no matter how short a time you leave an animal in a hot car for, you can’t leave the air-con on without the keys being in the ignition.
“But,” you might say, “I’m only heading to the store to pick up a newspaper/packet of cigarettes/can of drink. That can’t hurt them.” If you really care about your dog, though, that’s a pretty lame excuse.
OK, you might start out with the best of intentions of just jumping out of your car, then heading straight back. But what if you get waylaid?
Your car quickly becomes like an oven when it’s stood in the heat. The UK’s top animal welfare charity, the RSPCA, says that even at a pretty modest 22°C outside, inside a stationary car, temperatures can reach more than double that, about 47°C, within an hour.
At those levels, a dog will soon start to show signs of heatstroke, such as excessive panting or drooling, appearing lethargic, drowsy or lacking co-ordination. In severe cases, they may even vomit or lose consciousness.
Dogs regulate their body temperature through the well-known behaviour of panting. But in some circumstances, such as with very old or very young animals, dogs with thick or heavy coats, or dogs with short, flat faces, such as pugs or bulldog types, this can be more difficult for them.
What Does The Law Say?
A 2015 incident when a Georgia man was arrested for smashing a car window on a hot spring day to try to relieve the distress of a dog inside brought the issue into sharp focus.
A charge of criminal trespass against war vet Michael Hammons was later dropped, as state law allowed such action to be taken to rescue a child in distress – but not a dog.
However, while the owner of the dog and the car was expecting a charge to be brought in relation to the damage, a District Attorney later dropped the case – having first talked the owner into agreeing that this was the best course of action.
As another peak season for such cases neared, Barkpost.com researched the issue, and as of 2018, 28 states are considered enlightened enough to have enacted laws which either make it an offence to leave an animal in a locked vehicle, or offer civil immunity to someone who rescues a distressed animal in such circumstances. The specific circumstances in which someone will not be prosecuted for rescuing an animal, though, vary from state to state.
But in at least 12 states, recent laws have been enacted which allow anyone to rescue an animal in distress, and limit the civil or criminal liability they may face due to any damage caused.
In West Virginia and New Jersey, however, state laws place the onus for an animal’s well-being with its owner or keeper, and have made it a criminal offence to leave a pet unattended in dangerous conditions.
You also need to be aware of local laws and ordinances which prevent an animal or animals from being left in a parked vehicle unattended.
For example, while there is no specific state law in Texas forbidding an animal from being left in a car, cruelty laws can, and have, been used to bring justice to people who have deliberately left animals in vehicles while heading off someplace else.
You can see a full list of states, applicable laws and what they cover here.
What Should I Do If I See A Dog In Heat Distress?
The organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals suggests five steps which anyone can take if they see a dog left inside a car which might be suffering:
- Gather information: Take a note of the car make, model, color and license plate, or take a picture of it with your smartphone.
- Tell other people: If you think there’s time, speak to a manager in a nearby building, and politely ask them to page or message the car’s owner.
- Return to the car and monitor the dog, then don’t leave until further help arrives and the dog is safe.
- When the owner appears, tell them what has happened, and why you took the action you did.
- If there is still no sign of the owner, first call animal control. But if they are unable to attend immediately, call 911. And then, it says, “do what’s necessary to save the animal’s life”.
A Tricky Situation
Yes, this can be difficult for many people to handle. But if you really care about animals, and armed with the information in this article, you will hopefully have the confidence to do the right thing.
This might all make you feel pretty wary if you need to have your dog or cat transported across long distances, for example for getting them to your summer home.
But CitizenShipper has been helping owners hook up with caring, experienced and compassionate drivers who specialize in dog shipping, or transporting cats, for a few years now.
These are people who genuinely love animals, and put that into action by offering to carry them over whatever distance they feel comfortable driving.
The big plus of using a service such as CitizenShipper is that pet-carriers who offer their services through us often operate in teams of at least two, so ensuring that the animal is not left alone at any time. So you can be assured that they are in the care of a driver (and most likely a team) who is experienced in dog transportation or moving cats across the country.
Often pet owners themselves, they invest good money in equipping and adapting their vehicles for the kinds of journeys they bid on. So you’ll often find good-quality pet pens, with secure fastenings, all fitted into a vehicle that’s the right size for your particular job. And they’re happy for you to bring along your own pet blankets and bedding, to fully ensure that your dog or cat has somewhere comfortable and familiar to nestle down during their move.
We even have many drivers who’ve made their small to medium-scale pet and cargo-carrying operation into a way of life. They love the open road, they like having some company with them to enjoy it – so in effect, you’re paying them to enable them to do their ‘dream’ job.
And the pride they take in what they do results in an excellent level of service. Many provide regular journey bulletins and updates via social media, to reassure clients that all is well – but also as a valuable communication channel to ask, and answer, any questions along the way. But you can see this for yourself through our excellent Trustpilot reviews.
Finally, when it comes to taking a break on a trip, they will often seek out rest areas with pet-friendly facilities, so that not only do they get to stretch their legs, but your Fido can enjoy ‘walkies’ too.
As branches of families become ever-more distant, yet want to be able to stay in touch with their kin through regular visits, so the need for the CitizenShipper service grows.
So the service is always in need of enthusiastic and keen new drivers. If this sounds like a job you’d like to do, check out our new drivers’ Q&A. You can also get a more general idea of what the work involves from our previous blog post.
Whatever the time of year and the weather, CitizenShipper keeps you in control of your assignments, whether you’re using us to send most kinds of goods and domestic animals, or are building your own enterprise in the vibrant new ‘gig economy’.
So to find a caring chauffeur for your precious pets, who’ll be sympathetic to both your and their needs, at all times, don’t go ‘around the houses’ – just drop right by CitizenShipper and post your requirements.