Calls about animals left in hot vehicles shoot up in Central Okanagan

The Central Okanagan is the first jurisdiction in B.C. to issue tickets for leaving animals in hot, sealed vehicles.

The manager of the Kelowna SPCA says despite a higher number of calls about animals left in hot cars this summer, she thinks the public is getting the message not to do it.

Suzanne Pugh told the Capital News Wednesday that with the Central Okanagan being the first  jurisdiction in B.C., and possibly across Canada, to introduce tickets for people who leave animals in vehicles when the weather is hot, or even just warm, weather, the number of calls her office has received has shot up this summer.

Surrey, in the Lower Mainland, recently followed Kelowna’s lead and other municipalities in the province have it listed as a bylaw offence but do not ticket for it.

In July, SPCA officials were dispatched 310 times as a result of hot dog calls. That number was about 100 calls more than were received in June. On a typical weekend day in the summer, she said it is not unusual to get 20 calls about dogs left in unventilated vehicles in hot wether.

“I think part of it is that we have really stepped up awareness of the issue,” said Pugh. “To get calls is great because then we have a chance to make a difference for an animal.”

The cost of a ticket here is $150.

Pugh said she proposed the tickets as part of the regional district’s recent overhaul of its dog control bylaw. CORD handles dog control for the municipalities in the Central Okanagan.

Pugh said while only bylaw enforcement officers or the one SPCA special constable working in the Central Okanagan can issue the tickets, SPCA officials responding to a call normally notify the RCMP and ask for assistance. That is because only a police officer of the SPCA special constable can legally rescue an animal in distress from inside a hot vehicle. And, she added, the definition of an animal in distress is very precise under the Protection From Animal Cruelty Act.

If a police officer is not available to accompany the SPCA official to a call, the licence plate number of the vehicle in question is recorded and immediately passed on to bylaw officers.

Pugh was unable to give the number of tickets that have been issued since the provision went into effect June 1 and referred the question to regional dog control. No one was available to speak at regional dog control Wednesday.

Pugh urged pet owners to remain vigilant when their animals are in a vehicle because even on a relatively mild day, the temperature inside can be as much as 10 C hotter than outside when the windows are up .

“So even if it’s only 18 degrees outside, it could be 28 degrees inside,” she said. “And that is very warm for a dog.”

Pugh said if people cannot leave their animals at home or where they are staying, in the case of tourists, they can contact the Kelowna SPCA at 250-861-7722, for information about what they can do and where they can take animals to get them out of the heat.