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A Preventable Tragedy

Dogs in Hot Cars

This May, in breezy Nantucket, a dog died in a hot car. As horrible as this is, even more tragic is that this was 100% preventable.

In short, it is not safe to leave your dog in a car in even “warm” weather . . . ever. 

Why it’s Not OK:

  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it takes only 10 minutes for the temperature in a car to go up 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Cracking a window open and parking in the shade aren't sufficient to cool it down. Even at 70 degrees outside, the heat inside a car is deadly. 
  • Studies have shown that on a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 to 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. 
  • Unlike humans, dogs cannot sweat to cool themselves down and they can quickly succumb to heat stroke.
  • Though you may think that leaving the dog in the car with the air conditioning on is the answer, this can also be dangerous: the car can stall, the dog might knock the car out of gear and/or someone could steal your dog from the car.
  • If your dog is left alone in a hot car and suffers or dies because of it, you can be charged with a felony in the state of Massachusetts.

Try This Instead:

  • The easiest way to avoid a tragedy like this is to leave your dog at home. Run your errands. Then come home, leash up the dogs and head out for a fun walk together. This may seem inconvenient, but when compared to losing your beloved pet and possibly going to jail, it’s a breeze!
  • Take your dog only on errands that allow dogs inside, too: pet stores, outdoor cafes, drive-through banks, etc. If the dog can’t get out of the car with you, or if you can’t stay in the car with your dog, choose to leave your dog home.
  • Make it a habit to always check the back seat before leaving your car. Dogs have died in cars in their own driveways because people forgot they were in the car.

If You See a Dog in a Hot Car:

  • Immediately call the police: 508-228-1212.
  • Try to find the owner of the car. If the car is in the parking lot of a store or restaurant, write down the license plate and ask the manager to make an announcement for the person to go back to their car. 
  • If the dog is in immediate danger, try to open the car door. 
  • Unfortunately, smashing a window in order to save the dog is illegal, so if you choose to do that, know that the vehicle’s owner may decide to prosecute (and then decide according to your conscience). Currently, even the police are not allowed to break the window of a vehicle, though there is legislation pending that could change that.

Summers on Nantucket are the times we all look forward to. Don’t let this wonderful season be marred by a tragedy that is completely avoidable. Be KIND, leave them behind!