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This graphic has been showing up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds – truthfully, I’ve seen it all over the internet – but it wasn’t until yesterday that it really hit home for me. I was visiting two of my kitties that live in a fairly new condo complex. I parked my car in the parking lot and because the complex is new there are no mature trees around. When I came out after my visit 45 minutes later I opened my car door, threw my bag onto the passenger seat and sat down behind the steering wheel … I certainly didn’t stay seated very long … let me tell you I have never exited a car so quickly in my life. That seat was HOT! The first thing I thought about was children and pets being left in parked cars.

Yesterday the temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius (86F), the hottest day we have had in July so far. According to studies temperatures inside vehicles, even with the window cracked open and on a temperate day, can rise approximately 40 degrees F within one hour. That means when I came out after 45 minutes the inside temperature in my car was approx. 44 degrees Celsius (112F). No wonder I burned my butt when I sat down! Just as a sidebar: I had a ballpoint pen laying on the dash and it had started leaking, which I can only assume was due to the excessive heat in the car.

The following is from a study done by Stanford Medicine

McLaren collaborated with James Quinn, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine, and Jan Null, an independent certified consulting meteorologist, to measure the temperature rise inside a parked car on sunny days with highs ranging from 72 to 96 degrees F. Their results, published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, showed that a car's interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees F within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour.

"On a cool day, you don't feel hot so you believe it will be OK," Quinn said. "But ambient temperature doesn't matter; it's whether it's sunny out." Much like the sun can warm a greenhouse in winter, it can also warm a parked car on cool days. In both cases, the sun heats up a mass of air trapped under glass.

"Cars get hot, we know this intuitively," Null said. "But this study tells us that cars get hot very fast."

Imagine a child or a pet being left in that vehicle … yet it happens … and more often than we care to think about.

The graphic at the beginning of this post is from a campaign by the Ontario SPCA to encourage people NOT to leave pets (and obviously children) in parked cars.


So what can we do to prevent this from happening?

What do you do if you see an animal in distress inside a hot vehicle?


If you spot an unattended pet in a vehicle that appears to be suffering from heat exhaustion, do not hesitate to:

Call 310-SPCA (7722), if in Ontario, or

Call your local SPCA or Humane Society

Call your local Police

Some more useful tips from One Green Planet

Write down the make, model, and license plate and immediately notify the nearby businesses. Management will make an announcement over the loudspeaker to help locate the owner of the car. Go back to the vehicle and stay with the pet until either the owner or help comes.

If your intuition is screaming, don’t take any chances. If you see a dog or other animal left alone and in distress in a hot vehicle, call 911 or animal control immediately. Remain with the pet and vehicle until help arrives.

If the authorities are taking too long to respond and the animal’s life appears to be in imminent danger, find witnesses willing to back your reasoning and do what you need to do to remove the suffering animal from the vehicle. This could mean having to break a window.

Life Saving Actions to Take (remember, even a docile animal in distress can be a dangerous animal so make sure you know how to safely limit the animals movements as well as immobilizing teeth and claws)

A dog frantically scratching at the window to get out or making distressing sounds are big indicators of heat stress. More signs: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, disorientation, excessive drooling, vomiting, seizures, or a deep red or purple tongue.

As soon as a pet is removed from the hot car, immediately take them indoors where there is air conditioning to lower the body temperature.

Place cool, wet towels under arm-leg pits, the groin area and the back of the neck. Or soak the pet in a cool (not cold) bath making sure their head stays above water.

See if the animal can drink water.

If police or animal control is not present to do so, you need to get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.


Remind all of your friends and family not to leave their pets in their cars this summer by sharing the No Hot Pets messages on social media using #NoHotPets!

Encourage friends and family to visit and take the pledge not to leave pets in hot vehicles. Everyone can do their part to keep pets out of hot cars this summer!

Patronize businesses that are pet friendly. If you must take a pet with you somewhere, take them inside the store or building with you. Call ahead to make sure pets are allowed inside the establishment. If not, reconsider bringing them with you. Visit the OSPCA directory of participating businesses to find pet-friendly locations where pets are welcome inside while you shop. If you’re a business owner who wants to join the list of pet-friendly businesses that support No Hot Pets, email

Leave your pet at home when you go shopping, run errands, out to dinner or are travelling. Fluffy or Fido may enjoy a fun car ride, but leaving them in the car while you go into the store for even 15 minutes on a hot day could turn deadly. If you are going to be away for more than a day hire a pet sitter … it’s an inexpensive alternative to keep your pet safe. Owners who choose to leave pets unattended in vehicles, may face charges under the Ontario SPCA Act or the Criminal Code of Canada.


Dogs have a limited ability to sweat; even a short time in a hot environment can be life threatening. Cats may not take as many road trips, but that doesn’t mean they don’t take any. It is not uncommon for cats to accompany people in the car, particularly when taking a trip to see the veterinarian. Cats sweat only through their paws and may try to cool themselves by panting. Neither is an

efficient way of cooling off in extreme heat. As with dogs, even short periods of being left in the car can result in extreme heat and heat stroke. It’s a life threatening medical condition in which the body's internal organs (liver, kidneys, lungs, heart and brain) begin to shut down as a result of elevated body temperature caused by high, external temperatures and humidity.

Veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward sat in his parked car for 30 minutes with the windows cracked. He video taped himself and at five minute intervals described how he was feeling, how the air in the car was stifling even though there was a brisk breeze blowing outside. Watching the video one can see how he begins to perspire heavily after only a few minutes in the car.

Dr. Ward could rationalize the experience and despite his obvious discomfort he knew that he could exit the car any time he wanted and/or there would be an end to his ordeal. Imagine the panic and fear a cat or dog would feel in a similar situation. It can only be described as abuse.


My own opinion? If you leave a child or pet unattended in a vehicle or anywhere else where they could suffer or come to harm – you don’t deserve to have them in your care.

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