Novato Leads Marin in Calls about Overheated Dogs in Cars

Even moderate heat can be deadly for dogs. Play it safe.

A recent incident in which a Labrador retriever was rescued from inside a stuffy car is a perfect reminder not to leave unattended pets in cars, especially during the summer.

The Marin Humane Society says a car's interior can reach 160 degrees in a few minutes, even on mildly warm days. Animals in hot cars are at risk for brain damage, heat stroke and death. It is illegal in Marin to leave a pet unattended in a vehicle on a warm day, and any law enforcement officer will use whatever means necessary to remove a pet from a vehicle if an animal is in distress.

"Luckily, we have not had any instances of dogs dying, but we’ve certainly had to break into cars to retrieve dogs in danger," said Carrie Harrington, spokeswoman for the Marin Humane Society.

Here is the breakdown, courtesy of Harrington, of emergency calls from people reporting overheated dogs in hot cars between June 1 and July 10:

  • 22 — Novato
  • 16 — San Rafael
  • 8 — Mill Valley
  • 6 — Corte Madera
  • 4 — San Anselmo
  • 4 — West Marin
  • 3 — Larkspur
  • 2 — Tiburon/Belvedere
  • 1 — Sausalito
  • 1 — Greenbrae

Many of the calls came from people at shopping center parking areas. In Novato, most of the calls were from Vintage Oaks.

On Saturday, a Petaluma animal control officer had to pry open a locked car parked on Petaluma Boulevard after passersby reported that a large dog had been left inside for at least 30 minutes and was looking dehydrated.

“We see it frequently and just tell people, leave your dog at home,” says Andi Christman, an animal control officer who responded to the call. “It gets too hot too quickly and there isn’t enough air movement in the car, even if the window is cracked.”

A merchant brought out a bowl with water, which the Lab mix lapped up through an opening in the window. Passersby went into surrounding stores to try to find the owner, but had no luck.

That prompted Christman to pry open the car and take the dog to the shelter and leave a note for the owner, who was cited. (A first time violation can run up to $100.)

“When it’s this warm outside, things can happen,” Christman says. “Sometimes people even forget they have a dog in the car.” 

Kelli July 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I'm so glad people are taking action when they see a dog left in a parked car in a hot parking lot such as Vintage Oaks. I always phone the Humane Society when I see something is not right. Even leaving a window slightly open is not enough to keep a dog from getting over heated in a matter of minutes. We all need to take action and keep alert. These animals depend on us when their owners use poor judgement.
A. Costa July 11, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Completely agree Kelli. We as a community need to be proactive and keep our neighbors and pets safe. Poor pups, just trying to make their owners happy and that's how they get treated in return...NOT ok.
Cindy July 12, 2012 at 02:18 PM
For those of you who think that leaving a window "cracked open" is enough, I say, sit inside that car yourself, without the engine running and see how it feels. Don't be afraid to call the Humane Society to rescue dogs in hot cars 415 883-4621. The Humane Society also has flyers that you can get for free to put on people's windshields, it gives all the details of the dangers of leaving dogs in cars.


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