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Deadly dog days

During a demonstration Tuesday, SCRAPS animal protection Officer Francie Rapier monitors a thermometer placed inside a parked car. Even with four windows cracked open, the temperature hit 109 degrees in 25 minutes. (Colin Mulvany)
During a demonstration Tuesday, SCRAPS animal protection Officer Francie Rapier monitors a thermometer placed inside a parked car. Even with four windows cracked open, the temperature hit 109 degrees in 25 minutes. (Colin Mulvany)

Animal protection Officer Francie Rapier last week responded to a complaint of two dogs left inside a parked car at Spokane Valley Mall.

When she arrived, the outside temperature was 75, but the inside temperature was 100 degrees even though the car’s windows were left partly open, she said.

She seized the dogs and left a notice of violation on the windshield. The owner was cited for unsafe confinement, a misdemeanor.

On Tuesday, animal protection officials demonstrated just how deadly hot it can get for pets left inside a vehicle during summer weather.

Nancy Hill, director of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services, said her agency gets complaints every day about dogs being left in parked cars in the sun.

“They can get overheated very quickly,” she said. “It’s too hot for dogs to be in direct sun.”

People think cracking open the windows is enough, but it’s not, Hill said.

Officials parked a car in the sun just outside the county courthouse, shutting down the engine and air conditioner, but leaving the windows open by several inches.

The outdoor temperature was climbing to the upper 80s during the noon-hour demonstration.

Within five minutes, the temperature inside had reached the 90s, according to the high-tech thermometer that Rapier uses in her job.

After 15 minutes, the temperature on the front seat, which was facing the sun, was 103 degrees. After 25 minutes, it was 109.

Rapier said a dog would likely seek shelter on the floorboard below the backseats, away from the sun. The temperature there reached 89 after 15 minutes.

Three years ago, a Labrador retriever died after being left in a vehicle on a 75-degree day.

Violators can face criminal charges ranging from unsafe confinement, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, to animal cruelty, a felony punishable by a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Charges are based on the seriousness of the endangerment.

SCRAPS, which serves the unincorporated county and Spokane Valley, regularly has five officers on protection patrols who are available to respond to complaints. SpokAnimal provides services inside the city of Spokane.



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