Despite all of the media attention, Greater Sudbury Police Service and the Ontario SPCA continue to receive calls of animals left unattended in vehicles.
It's such a problem, Ontario SPCA Sudbury branch manager Rob Kaelas said he is “perplexed” by it.
The SPCA and the police service is doing everything they possibly can to stop people from leaving their dogs unattended in vehicles, Kaelas said, even going as far as putting out a joint news release asking pet owners to be extremely mindful of bringing their dogs with them when it's hot outside.
“It's an issue that I really don't understand why people keep doing it,” Kaelas said. “I know people don't intentionally want to harm their dog, or even leave their pet unattended in a car for a lengthy period of time, but it's all in the eye of the beholder what a safe amount of time is.”
What it all boils down to, he said, is don't bring your dog with you, and if you have to, then make sure there is another responsible person who will remain in the vehicle with the dog. If that person finds it's getting too warm, then chances are so is the dog.
A five-minute stop at a store could very well turn into 20 minutes if a person runs into someone they know, and they get to talking, or even if the lineup is too long, Kaelas said.
“I don't think the intent is there for people to cause distress, injury or event death for their dog; I think it's just that people get side tracked.”
High temperatures are a serious danger to pets, and it is the owner’s responsibility to make sure that their pet is not left in that kind of situation. Parked vehicles can quickly reach deadly temperatures, even on relatively mild days, with the car parked in the shade and the windows slightly open. Pets left without protection from the sun and heat continues to result in numerous deaths across the province every year.
According to the Ontario SPCA, dogs have a limited ability to sweat. A dog's normal body temperature is about 39 degrees C and a temperature of 41 degrees C can be withstood only for a very short time before irreparable brain damage or even death can occur.
When summer was just beginning in June, Kaelas said on hot days, the OSPCA would receive between three and five calls a day. That number has dropped a bit since the public has become more aware of the issue, but it's still an issue nonetheless.
Responding to those calls is a “difficult matter,” he said. The OSPCA is limited in its number of agents, because it's a charity that receives no government funding. There isn't a “platoon of agents” ready to take care of these calls, and the coverage area is so vast, that if there is only one agent on duty, they could very well be in Blind River on another call.
“Then we end up having to call the police and burdening them to attend the call, and they have only so many officers on the road who are dealing with priority calls,” Kaelas said. “The public gets upset if either the SPCA or the police don't show up fast enough. As a retired police officer, I certainly understand the situation the police are in.
Again, people just have to realize the value of leaving their dog at home instead of bringing it with them when they go shopping, he said.
And, even then, we get calls from people about dogs that are tied up outside where they might not have enough shade, or perhaps the don't have enough water in their bowl,” he said.
On the rare occasion that someone isn't able to get a hold of the SPCA or the police doesn't show up in due time, Kaelas said a person concerned with a dog's welfare that is left unattended in a vehicle should try to find the owner if it's at a corner store, or bring the matter to the attention of security if it's at a mall.
“There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to handling a situation like this,” Kaelas said.
For example, someone could park in a mall parking lot but go somewhere completely different.
“It really puts people who just happen to be walking by a car in a real predicament. Most people don't want to interfere, because there are so many unknowns.”
A lot of people will actually stand around and wait for the vehicle's owner to come back, and if the owner doesn't come back soon enough, then they will take it upon themselves to try and find a security officer. Meanwhile, the clock is still ticking. It could easily take half an hour to get back to the vehicle and get the dog.
“Heat plus time equals a negative outcome,” Kaelas said.
For anyone who suspects a dog might be suffering from heat stroke, symptoms of which include excessive panting and drooling, listlessness or unconsciousness, prompt veterinary medical attention is vital, according to the SPCA. In the meantime, wet the fur immediately with lukewarm to cool water, not cold. Bring the pet into the shade and offer drinking water.
Anyone who sees an animal suffering in the heat is urged to contact Greater Sudbury Police at 705-675-9171 or the Ontario SPCA at 705-566-9582.
Posted by Arron Pickard