Police remind pet owners about hot weather and cars

As the weather begins to warm, the public is being warned of the dangers of keeping pets inside their vehicles.

During the Memorial Day weekend, Medford police responded to several reports of dogs being left inside a vehicle and in distress because of the heat, said Sgt. Curtis Whipple, canine supervisor for Medford police.

Leaving a pet in a vehicle can lead to charges of animal neglect if a person intentionally, knowingly, recklessly or with criminal negligence fails to provide minimum care for an animal in his or her care, Whipple said.

Whipple personally responded to three calls of animals in distress during his holiday shift. The dogs' owners were found relatively quickly and no citations were issued, he said.

But on Monday at the Rogue Valley Mall, police cited a woman with second-degree animal neglect after a pit bull allegedly was left sweltering in a vehicle for more than an hour, Whipple said. The police were alerted by shoppers unable to locate the large dog's owners. The dog was suffering from the heat, but was also fiercely protective of the vehicle, he said.

"The large pit bull was not very happy with the situation," said Whipple. "But if you do get a dog like this out, then what happens in a situation like this?"

Jackson County Animal Care and Control officers are not available on weekends and holidays. Police were about to resort to a noose and open the car when the owner was finally located. She was cited with a Class B misdemeanor, Whipple said.

"Luckily this one had a happy ending," he said.

Whipple advises people who see an animal that appears to be in a potentially dangerous situation to call police if they are unable to locate the its owner.

On a mild 65-degree day, temperatures inside a car can reach 140 degrees or more in less than 30 minutes. Heatstroke can lead to organ shutdown and intestinal damage. A dog who is panting heavily, appears anxious, has glazed eyes or a rapid heart rate or is vomiting may have heatstroke and should immediately be placed in an environment with cool air and rushed to a veterinary care center, he said.

"Also if the animal has a bright red tongue or mouth and gums," Whipple said, adding short-nosed dogs like pugs can suffer life-threatening heatstroke even more easily than those with longer muzzles.

Don't forget the animal is wearing a fur coat. Even cracking the window of a vehicle will only reduce the temperature slightly inside the vehicle. Heatstroke can result in death or severe physical/mental issues for the dog and requires immediate care, Whipple said.

"If you would not stay in the car due to heat, your pet also would not want to," said Whipple.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

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