Dog days of Summer

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Photo illustration of dog left in hot car.

LEWISTON — The call came in to the Lewiston Police Department on Wednesday afternoon. Someone had left a dog in a parked vehicle with the windows rolled up.

Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Photo illustration of dog left in hot car.

Keeping dogs from overheating at home

In addition to not taking dogs on errands in hot weather, veterinarian Michelle Maloney recommended precautions to keep dogs from overheating at home in hot, humid weather.

* "You need water, always," Maloney said. "That's how dogs cool themselves. They really need that water. I can't stress that enough.” The water should be cool, she said, but not full of ice.

* Skip chasing the ball or any vigorous exercise.

* Take dogs on walks early in the day and later in the day, when it's not so hot.

* If you don't have air conditioning, cool your dogs down by hosing them with water in the yard.

* If your dog becomes overheated, cover their fur with rubbing alcohol to cool them down. “Rubbing alcohol disperses the heat,” she said.

With the summer heat, the caller was concerned for the dog's safety.

Cpl. Kevin Cramp responded.

He ran the license plate to identify the owner, and went into a store near where the car was parked. The problem was solved quickly, he said, when within a few minutes, the dog's owner came out of the store.

That kind of call is becoming more frequent, police say. People are quicker to notice a dog left in a parked car — and report the incident to police.

“There's a change in society with standards,” Deputy Chief James Minkowsky said Friday. “People view it as abuse now, where maybe they wouldn't have as much before.”

Veterinarians recommend owners leave their dogs home when running errands in the hot, humid weather. Leaving them in a parked car, even for a short time with the windows down slightly, is dangerous.

Police respond when people call to a report a dog in a parked car. The complaint is more prevalent in mall areas, they said.

“We assess the situation, try to make contact with the owner and educate people,” Minkowsky said. Most dog owners are well intended.

“They think they're going to run into a store for five minutes,” he said. “Five minutes can turn into 25 minutes. Meanwhile, the animal is suffering.”

Police aren't looking to summon dog owners. Most of the time, people are not acting with criminal intent, Minkowsky said. But police do have that ability, and do summon dog owners in extreme cases. The offense would be animal cruelty, a Class D crime.

In Auburn, police Lt. Tony Harrington said his department receives reports of dogs left in cars whenever it is very hot or very cold. Often, he said, the dog owners are gone when police arrive. Occasionally, they'll find that a dog was left inside a car but with the air conditioner left running.

Whenever possible, Harrington said, the officer will speak to the dog owner about pet safety.

By law, Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout was called to a couple reports of dogs left in cars in Auburn on Friday. There was one in Lewiston.

"We see more in Auburn because of the malls," Strout said.

In Auburn on Friday, Strout found a dog in a car, but the engine had been left running and the air conditioning was on.

"That's fine," Strout said, "unless you have engine trouble."

Most dog owners, Strout says, are responsible. They won't intentionally leave their pets in dangerous situations.

"If it's in the Walmart parking lot in baking heat and the windows are cranked up," Strout said, "that's an issue."

Over the years, he has cited a few people for leaving their dogs in hot cars. He has also seen a pair of dogs perish because of it.

"It's an ugly death," Strout said. "It's something you don't want to see."

Dr. Michelle Maloney, a veterinarian, said leaving a dog in a parked car, especially when it's hot and humid, is downright dangerous.

“The temperature inside the car rises really rapidly," said Maloney, who operates The Pets Mobile Vet practice. "Even with the windows cracked down, it can get up to 40 degrees higher than outside in 10 or 15 minutes.”

Dogs keep themselves cool by drooling, similar to how humans sweat. But on humid days, the air doesn't allow more moisture to evaporate and dogs can't cool down, she said.

If dogs get too hot, their blood vessels dilate, trying to cool the blood system, the veterinarian said. Their blood pressure rises. Being overheated can impact all their internal organs.

“The heart has a hard time because they're panting so badly as the body tries to cool itself,” she said. When a dog's body temperature is too high, it can suffer damage to the kidneys, the liver and the gastrointestinal track, Maloney said. “They can die.”

Lt. Cramp, who handles a Lewiston police dog named Chico, said that in the police car, Chico has air conditioning “and always a bowl of water.”

At home, Chico doesn't ride in the car when it's hot, Cramp said.

Maloney approves. She recommends dog owners not take their dogs on errands in this weather.

“It's so hot, it's not safe to run into a store,” she said. “Cracking the window doesn't help much.”

Some owners leave the car running with the air conditioning going. Maloney doesn't approve. The dogs could step on the door lock “and lock the door on you. Now the animal's inside with the car running. That's not good.”

Many dogs love to ride in cars, Maloney's two dogs included. On Friday, she was planning to go to the lake — but she left her dogs at home because she had to stop at several stores on the way.

“They're going to be bummed,” she said.

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Eric  LeBlanc's picture

What about the morons who leave

What about the morons who leave a loud yelping dog in their car in front of my place when they go into a restaurant to stuff their fat ugly face for an hour? It's not hot or cold outside and the dog isn't in danger but one of these days I'm going to wait outside for the owner and knock them unconscious. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Clarence Turner's picture

Dogs or any animals

If you got to take a dog with you out on hot days DONT.Leave them with a friend or someone at home.The stupidity of some people who take dogs out on hot days and leave them in vehicles have no common sense.My dog loves me and i love my dog and want him to go every place i go is nothing but brainless thinking.If anyone truly loved their dog they wouldn't leave the animal in an oven baking hot vehicle while they went shopping or whatever in some air conditioned store.If when someone does this and gets caught they should have the punishment of being put in a vehicle the same way as they had their dog for an hour.To stay there with the windows cracked a little in the same way as their dog.See how they like it or get a $100 fine first offense and higher fine for 2nd and more offenses.I love animals and it ticks me off to hear of some of the dumb ignorant things people do concerning animals.

Whenever we travel with our

Whenever we travel with our dogs (usually to go up to MDI), they are never alone in the car (with windows at least 2" open) longer than it takes to hit the restroom or, if it's lunchtime, we hit the drive-thru.

Dog days of Summer

These hot days we have had lately I do not take my dogs but I have taken them before for a quick trip in to a convenience store. I have 2 sets of keys with me. I leave the vehicle running and doors locked.

Steve  Dosh's picture

Dog days of Summer

Bonnie & Russ 20:00 hst ?
. . Not just dogs , children , also
" Oh ! I was just running in to the store for a minute to get some cigarettes and a scratch - off , officer "
hth ? Steve :D
i gotta' admit though , that scene from " Raising Arizona " by the Cohen brothers was pretty funny, though . ... •

JERRY ARIPEZ's picture

Great day for the dog, so glad somebody acted:

My friend had a small beagle that was just amazing, when he would throw a frisbee high into a spruce tree and that dog climbed the tree like a squirrel and retrieved it, every time. I wish I would've had a video to send off to AFV, it was so funny and amazing.

But my friend had his little buddy in the back of the pickup in the cab on a day his mom had a heart attack in the house and with all the confusion, forgot and lost the poor dog from heat exposure. My friend to this day still has not got over it from grief of losing his buddy....

I am so glad that so many folks pay attention to these incidents to save the animals for such a horrible death such as that. Even if you had to break the glass to save the animal, it should be justified.


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