WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Each year KSNW-TV reports on the dangers of leaving children inside hot cars throughout the warmer months.
Unfortunately, the all too familiar story unfolded this week right here in Wichita.
While it serves as an important reminder, children aren’t the only ones at risk in hot cars.
Pets, usually dogs, are often left unattended in cars as owners run errands and make their rounds around town throughout the day.
For pets, the danger may be less obvious, but equally fatal, according to Mark Eby, president and CEO of the Kansas Humane Society.
“Even if you have the windows down and there’s a breeze outside, again, it can get really hot in there because the air isn’t circulating regularly and that’s a problem for dogs to be able to get that heat out of their system and when dogs get to the point when they have heat exhaustion or any kind of heat related illness, they can, within 15 minutes it can cause brain damage so that’s a big problem as well,” Eby said.
In fact, a 76 degree day can heat a car to 116 degrees within one hour.
If it is 80 degrees outside, a typical Kansas summer day, the temperature inside a car can heat up to 99 degrees within just 10 minutes.
Rolling down the windows have shown to have little effect on cooling the temperature inside the car, Eby added.
Because dogs and cats don’t have the same kind of sweat glands as people, it can be that much more difficult to shake the heat.
Usually, a happy and healthy animal in a car will interact with people as they walk by.
Signs and symptoms of an animal in distress include panting, laying down, eyes closing and overall lethargy.
If those symptoms are noticeable it’s time to take action, Eby said.
First, take down the license plate number and car model. Then locate the owner of the car. If the owner isn’t in sight, try checking with the businesses nearby.
If the owner can’t be located, call the local non-emergency police line to get some help.
Only as a last resort, Eby said, should someone break a car window.
“Most animals will interact with you when they’re in the car. You know, barking, trying to get up to the window, things like that,” he said. “But if they start to lay down, start to show signs that they’re really going down quickly then it’s really up to the citizen to decide what they want to do and if they want to take on the risk. But if law enforcement isn’t there yet then that’s something you have to decide on your own.”
Currently there are 16 states in the U.S. with laws against leaving an animal in the car. Kansas is not one of them.
There are abuse laws in place in Kansas, which could lead to charges should an animal be found in distress, but those apply after-the-fact.
“We would need to look at other states and what’s happened in those states,” Eby said. “You know, I don’t want people to become overzealous where they’re breaking out windows of cars all the time and doing things that maybe don’t need to be done but we all like to have our animals with us and sometimes you have to run into a store really quick but we have to be vigilant about what the temperature is outside and what the impact is going to be on that animal before we make that decision.”
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