We’ve all seen it at some time or another, and it’s always heartbreaking — a pet left inside its owner’s hot vehicle. While it’s wrong to do any time of the year, now is the most dangerous time, when South Florida temperatures are at their highest. It shouldn’t even be a possibility, no matter for how long. You wouldn’t leave a small child in a hot car, and you shouldn’t leave a pet either. If you really love your pet, you will treat it like the living being that it is — not like a bag of groceries.
South Florida is pretty much the worst place for pet owners to do this. Don’t be tempted to downplay or underestimate how hot it is. Though the official temperature at the time may be in the 80s, it’s important to also consider the heat index, which combines air temperature and relative humidity. And even then, that only tells how hot it is outside the vehicle. Inside is a completely different reality — and one that’s much, much hotter. It heats up far more quickly than you might imagine. There’s no telling how long you’ll be in the store. It’s easy to lose track of time: You can get stuck in line behind someone with a pile of coupons, run into someone you know who strikes up a conversation, or you can get a phone call, which is always a good way to get distracted.
The best solution, of course, is to leave your pet at home before going out to run errands. It may be fun to have your little buddy by your side, but if it means having your pet endure life-threatening conditions, it’s just not worth it. For cases in which traveling with your pet is unavoidable, such as a trip to the veterinarian, try to make it a single-destination trip. If you do plan to make another stop, try limiting it to businesses with a drive-up window. If you’re taking a pet on a family vacation, be sure to plan pet accommodations in advance.
For those who witness a pet left inside a hot car, there are a few ways you can deal with the situation. If it’s clear which store the pet owner entered, alert the store manager and try to find the person. If the animal’s situation doesn’t look especially dire, you can leave a flier on the vehicle informing the owner that what they did was wrong, and that it did not go unnoticed. You can make your own fliers or find readymade ones online at web sites such as www.mydogiscool.com, which offers plenty of resources for helping spread the word about the issue.
But in cases where it looks like time is of the essence, it’s best to contact Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control or even local law enforcement. If the pet owner’s negligence is that severe, it should be treated as a crime. Whichever way you choose to intervene, your actions could mean the difference between that animal living and dying. Anyone who would leave an animal in a hot car in the Florida summer heat doesn’t deserve to be a pet owner.