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Complaints about pets locked in cars up

July 07, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A dog left in a closed car in hot weather will end up panting and thirsty, or worse, and its owner could wind up in trouble with the law.

During the current heat wave, the SPCA has taken many complaints about dogs left in parked cars without access to shade or water, Keller Haden, animal control supervisor at the Washington County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said.

In June, the agency investigated nine such reports. It has checked four complaints so far this month.

"This heat wave is taking its toll on the animals, too," said Haden.

On Saturday afternoon, a Washington County Sheriff's deputy found a 6-week-old mixed Bassett losing consciousness in a parked vehicle outside Valley Mall. The owner, a Hancock resident, was getting her daughter's hair cut inside, according to Haden.

The SPCA has custody of the dog. "The puppy's doing fine," said Haden.

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On Sunday afternoon, Hagerstown City Police found a chow chow inside a car in the Valley Plaza Shopping Center. The owner, a Greencastle, Pa., resident, shopped for about 40 minutes before she returned to the car, Capt. Robert Hart said.

Criminal charges are pending in both cases.

Depending on the severity of the case, a conviction on a cruelty to animals charge is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. Police have the authority to break into vehicles to free trapped pets.

"People really need to do their pets a favor and leave their pets at home," said Haden. "Even if it's just 10 minutes, the animals can suffer."

The temperature in a parked vehicle can rise quickly. Dogs and cats do not sweat and their average body temperature is 101 degrees, according to Haden. They need access to water to maintain their temperatures, she said.

Pets left outside also can have problems when water and shade aren't available and the sun is brutal.

People should make sure that pets left outside have plenty of fresh water, she said.

The bowl should be secured so it cannot be knocked over and partially burying it will help keep the water cool, she said.

Metal bowls are not recommended because they transfer heat quickly.

A deep bowl is better because it keeps the water cooler. Place it in a shady area and make sure the animal will have some shade as the sun moves during the day, Haden said.

"Our preference is for all animals to be inside in the air conditioning," she said.

The SPCA typically takes in about 12 to 15 animals each day, Haden said. On July 1 alone, the SPCA admitted 44 animals. "This time of year we always have a large influx of animals," Haden said.

Pets are allowed to run loose more often in the summer and there are more litters, she said.

Domestic animals have more contact with wild animals and more opportunity for injury, Haden said.

Animal neglect or abuse can be reported by calling the SPCA at 301-733-2060. A description is good, but with vehicles it is better to get the tag number, Haden said.

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