Thomas County animal control is receiving calls almost daily about dogs being left in cars with little ventilation.
The latest call came Tuesday when someone left a dog in a car at a Thomasville restaurant.
On one day recently, animal control received three calls.
“It takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation. Most people don’t realize how hot it can get in a parked car,” said Pat Smith, Thomas County animal control director.
The temperature in a parked car, even in the shade with the windows partly open, can rapidly reach a level that will seriously harm or even kill an animal.
Leaving a pet in a vehicle with air-conditioning on also is risky, since many pets have died as the result of faulty air-conditioning systems.
Smith said rolling down a window doesn’t guarantee protection.
“Animals are not able to sweat like humans do. They cool themselves by panting and by releasing heat through their paws. On hot days, the air and upholstery in your vehicle can heat up to high temperatures that make it impossible for pets to cool themselves,” Smith explained.
Causing an animal to be subjected to unnecessary cruelty or suffering is punishable by a maximum of 12 months in jail and a fine.
No charges have been brought in local cases in which animals were found in closed cars, because the owners were located quickly.
Heat stress symptoms are:
• Heavy panting
• Rapid breathing
When breathing suddenly becomes quiet with any of these symptoms, the animal might collapse. An animal affected by heat stroke can die in minutes, but proper care might save its life.
• Safely and immediately remove the animal from its hot environment to a safe, shaded area if possible.
• Slowly cool the animal by placing it in cool, not cold, water.
• Reduce body heat gradually. If possible, the wind or a fan breeze directed to wet areas of the animal’s body will help with cooling.
• Take the distressed pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
“If you see an animal locked in a car on a hot day, please don’t look the other way. Your quick response can mean the difference between life and death,” Smith said.
Anyone seeing an animal left in a vehicle should call 911 or animal control 228-0613 or 977-3750.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820.