Pets Left in Vehicles Pose Deadly Combination

Kalamazoo Humane Society Educates Owners: Extreme Heat Puts Pets at Risk

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This summer’s high temperatures have sparked an explosion of calls to local law enforcement about animals being left in cars. The Kalamazoo Humane Society warns that leaving a pet alone in a vehicle for any length of time can be deadly.

“It’s not enough to leave the car running or to crack open the windows,” said Aaron Winters, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Humane Society (KHS). “Cracking a window makes no significant difference in the internal temperature of a vehicle. Even leaving the vehicle and its air conditioning running might not be enough to keep a pet safe.”

The temperature inside a car left in the sun on a 70-degree day can reach 104 degrees in half an hour. On a 90-degree day, that temperature can reach 124 degrees that quickly.
Stephen Lawrence, Director of Kalamazoo County Animal Services & Enforcement, said KCASE is receiving up to five calls a day this summer. “As the temperatures increase, so do the number of calls we get about dogs being left in hot cars,” he said.

In many of these cases, the vehicles are either no longer there when the officers arrive or the dog is not showing signs of distress. If a dog is in distress, it is removed. According to Lawrence, so far this summer three dog owners face neglect-related charges after leaving their dogs in hot vehicles.

Even leaving a vehicle and its air conditioning running is no guarantee. In late July, 14 dogs left for two hours in a transport vehicle died after its air conditioner failed.

According to Winters, there is no magic temperature that makes it safe to leave pets in vehicles. Heat can rise to deadly temperatures inside a car even when the outside temperature is relatively cool. “The sun shining through the windows works like a greenhouse, raising the temperature substantially,” Winters said. “This can happen at any time of year.”

The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety encourages citizens to dial 9-1-1 if they believe a pet in a vehicle is in distress. KPS does not condone or recommend anyone attempt to remove pets from vehicles themselves. Winters added that trying to rescue a pet from a vehicle can leave a would-be rescuer facing an aggressive animal, a runaway animal or an angry owner. “Leaving these situations to trained law enforcement is the best thing to do,” Winters said.

The Kalamazoo Humane Society has vehicle sun shades available for sale to help spread awareness for pets trapped in hot cars. These shields urge concerned citizens to call 9-1-1 if they spot a pet in distress.

Windshield Sun Shades

Windshield Sun Shades $20, available online and in our office. $10 is donated back to the Kalamazoo Humane Society!


  • Every year in the US, dogs die in cars that are running due to mechanical failures
  • A normal body temperature for a dog is 101°-102.5°; heatstroke occurs when body temps are at 108°-109° and higher.
  • A dog can experience heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes in a hot vehicle
  • All dogs are at risk for heatstroke, but certain dogs are considered to be at an even higher risk such as flat-faced dogs like bulldogs and boston terriers, very old dogs, very young dogs, dogs with existing medical conditions and dogs that are extra-active or don’t know when to  quit
  • Signs of heatstroke and respiratory distress include excessive panting and drooling, bright red tongue and/or gums or very pale gums, thick saliva, dizziness, vomiting with or without blood, diarrhea and loss of consciousness
  • Dogs are unable to sweat and release excess body heat through their paw pads and by panting
  • Owners can face charges for neglect, torture or inadequate care for dogs left to suffer in hot cars

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