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Vehicles, hot days are bad mix for pets

Animal welfare agencies are reminding pet owners that dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn are very real threats to dogs and cats this time of year.

Director Nancy Hill said the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service has received 22 complaints in the past week about owners leaving pets in hot cars.

“Even leaving a pet in a vehicle for a few minutes with the windows cracked is not safe as moderately warm temperatures outside can quickly lead to deadly temperatures inside a closed car,” Hill said in a news release.

Dogs are especially vulnerable because they get rid of excess heat mainly through panting. Short-nosed breeds or flat-faced animals cannot pant as efficiently as long-snouted pets.

Older, overweight or ailing pets are also especially susceptible to heat problems.

Vulnerable pets should be kept in cool locations.

SCRAPS warns against leaving a pet in a car during fair weather, too. If the outdoor air is 70 degrees, a closed vehicle can reach 100. It’s better to leave pets at home this time of year.

A Stanford University study found that a car’s internal temperature can hit 116 degrees within an hour when the outdoor temperature is 72, Hill said.

Anyone who leaves a pet in a hot car can be cited for misdemeanor confinement of a pet in an unsafe manner.

A pet owner charged with felony animal cruelty for leaving a dog in a vehicle for two hours in late June, causing the dog’s death, has pleaded guilty to second-degree animal cruelty and transporting or confining an animal in an unsafe manner.

Charles M. Eschenbacher, 31, has served 12 days in jail and received 24 months of probation; he also must pay $1,256 restitution, according to court records.

If owners suspect their pets have heat stroke, they should seek veterinary attention and get the pet into the shade, then wet the animal with cool water – not ice – and provide drinking water.

On the way to the vet, make sure the windows in the vehicle are open or the air conditioner is running.