As mercury rises in Kelowna so do the volume of calls at the SPCA.
Despite a lengthy education campaign explaining the risks to pets in hot cars and the implementation of a Central Okanagan-wide ticketing system, reports of dogs sweltering continue to rise.
Suzanne Pugh, manager of the Kelowna branch of the BCSPCA, said the BCSPCA has fielded 840 hot pet calls to date, compared to 514 in the same period last year. Locally, the summer has brought 80 reports.
Perfectly underscoring her point, at a Thursday afternoon press conference aimed at further getting out the message about best practices for protecting pets from the elements, Pugh was told that police and her staff were racing to the parking lot by Kelowna’s old McDonalds, where a dog had been locked in a hot car for 45 minutes.
It’s something that clearly frustrates Pugh as, in addition to the cruelty of the act, it takes away from the SPCA’s regular role of caring for abandoned and abused animals.
That said, the organization is continuing to approach the issue through further education in hopes it will stop the inhumane practice.
“Many well meaning guardians leave their pets in parked vehicles when they run errands, thinking they will be safe for a short period,” she said. “Tragically, in hot weather their pets can suffer serious heatstroke and die in a matter of minutes.”
To fully illustrate how quickly temperatures rise in a car, Const. Steve Holmes put a thermometer in a vehicle parked in the shade at Orchard Park mall.
As the press conference wore on, the digits on the monitor creeped up to red hot conditions.
That temperature reporters were told, could kill a dog as they have no sweat glands, and cool themselves by panting and releasing heat through their paws. As the temperature of the upholstery of a vehicle rises, it’s impossible for dogs to cool themselves, and within 15 to 20 minutes they can suffer irreparable brain damage.
“You shouldn’t have to put on a fur coat and sit in a hot car with the windows rolled up to understand how dangerous it is for your pet to be left there,” said Holmes, who earlier noted the Mounties have already this summer attended 53 hot pet calls.
“Leaving your pet at home is the right thing to do if you are shopping. If you must take your pet make sure there is a second person who can stay with your pet in a shaded area.”
He added that, generally speaking, the people they find who have made the decision to lock their dog in a steaming hot car aren’t trying to be cruel. They tend to park in shaded areas, assuming that they’re only going to be gone for a harmless minute or two.
That said, when caught leaving a dog in a hot car, they’re often put on the receiving end of a harsh critique, as actress Jennifer Beals learned in Vancouver Wednesday morning.
Global News filmed the actress returning to her Ford Escape during a sunny day in Vancouver. Her dog was in the car and the window was slightly rolled down.
A man confronted the actress outside of her vehicle out of concern for the pooch, at which point Beals is heard saying, “In Dunbar it is, it’s fine.”
“It is, OK,” the passerby replied before adding, “Just so you know I am reporting this.”
Since then her social media was rife with attacks about irresponsible pet ownership.
Offering a gentler alternative, Pugh said the SPCA recommends noting the licence palate of a vehicle and asking managers of nearby businesses to page the owner to return to the vehicle immediately.
Those who see pets in cars should call the BC SPCA abuse hotline at 1-855-622-7722.
Also, be an advocate. Help dread the word that pets and hot ceghicles are a fatal mix. Get the #HotPetsNotCool decal for your vehicle and download a poster and other materials at spca.bc.ca/hotpets to put up in malls and other areas in your community.