The Times West Virginian


July 13, 2014

COLUMN: Who would leave animal in sweltering car?

I was standing and debating between two brands of a product in a big box store when I heard a call over the intercom:

“Will the owner of a green Cavalier with a dog inside please report to the lawn and garden center.”

I shook my head. I hate seeing dogs in cars waiting while their owners shop. About five minutes later, there was another announcement over the intercom.

“Will the owner of a green Cavalier with a dog inside please report to the lawn and garden center.”

That was a little upsetting for me. There’s no place in that store where it would be impossible to make it from to the garden center in five minutes. Poor dog, I thought. Was the owner ignoring the call? And why would you leave your dog in the car for longer than five minutes to begin with? It was a very hot day, and the sun was beating down on the giant parking lot with no shade. I was angry with the owner, this person I didn’t even know.

About 10 minutes later, there was another call over the intercom.

“To the owner of the green Cavalier, your dog is in the lawn and garden center.”

I laughed. Any number of things could have happened. The dog could have jumped out of a window and headed to where it was cool. A person could have taken the dog out of the hot car and brought it to the clerks at the lawn and garden center.

But in my mind, I’d like to think that what really happened was similar to a memo I’ve seen on social media. “If you leave your dog in a hot car, I will not hesitate to break the window with a tire iron. And please do not come out and yell at me because I will be very angry ... and holding a tire iron.”

Here’s the deal — leaving a pet in a hot car is no different than putting them in an oven. If it’s a nice, breezy 75-degree day, the inside of a car reaches 100 degrees within 10 minutes. By the 30 minute mark, it’s 120 degrees in there. If it’s 100 degrees outside, a car’s interior reaches 140 in a matter of 10 minutes.

Cracking windows has hardly any impact on internal temperatures of cars. Seriously.

According to veterinarians, all it takes is five to 10 minutes on a hot day for your dog to suffer severe organ damage or die. On top of that, humans are rational. They know if they are in a bad situation, they could honk a horn, open a door or smash a window. Dogs don’t. Dogs panic. The last few minutes of their lives are frantic, as they try to find a way out of the car by biting or digging. But that doesn’t last long before their organ systems shut down and they quickly die.

So, here’s the question. Why? Why would you do that to an animal? Would an extra trip really add too much time to your day? Drop the dog off to relax in an air-conditioned home instead of suffering in the oven-like temperatures of a hot car while you run into the store for groceries or a prescription or shampoo. If your dog doesn’t like to be home alone, I’ll bet it is certainly preferable to a quick and horrific death in a hot car.

Oh, and doing so means you’re breaking the law. According to State Code 61-8-19, “(it is unlawful to) leave an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result.” Doing so makes you subject to misdemeanor charges, which upon conviction, means you could fined not less than $300 nor more than $2,000 or confined in jail not more than 6 months, or both.

So to the owner of the green Cavalier and anyone else who makes the lousy decision to leave a defenseless dog, or any other animal for that matter, in a sweltering car, I may not have a tire iron with me, but I have a cell phone that can dial 9-1-1.

Misty Poe is the managing editor of the Times West Virginian and can be reached at, by phone at 304-367-2523 or on Twitter @MistyPoeTWV.

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