Harm or Help

In this era of finding dog abusers everywhere. The era of making unsubstantiated or poorly researched claims on social media. The era of ‘not’ doing the right thing?

I saw this post on a northern Wisconsin city Craig’s List .

Here’s the photo from the post. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

image 1

The Header said, “Dog left in car!!!!!!!!” And went on , “R… (location removed) at around 1pm dog left in car for over an hour. Its not hot out today but inside of a car with the windows up, no air conditioning or water seen anywhere. Its hot and humid. This person should have their animal taken away from them. I dont know who the the owner was but judging by the rhinestone collar on the dog I will assume its a (swear removed) .. and I dont mean the dog….”

Wait a minute …It was partly cloudy that day, breezy, with a high temperature of 50 at 4pm. Look at the dog.  She’s wondering why this person is staring at her, she’s not panting or looking overly hot in any way, and I suggest if she had gotten territorial over this stranger … then what? Look at the front dash, do you see where the sunshine stops? The car is parked so sun isn’t shining into the front tan seat, not far from trees (although leafless as yet). And this side door seems to have dappled sunlight on it.

Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time
Elapsed time Outside Air Temperature (F)
70 75 80 85 90 95
0 minutes 70 75 80 85 90 95
10 minutes 89 94 99 104 109 114
20 minutes 99 104 109 114 119 124
30 minutes 104 109 114 119 124 129
40 minutes 108 113 118 123 128 133
50 minutes 111 116 121 126 131 136
60 minutes 113 118 123 128 133 138
> 1 hour 115 120 125 130 135 140
Source: Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University
This table is the results of a study that is cited over and over, but what re-posters don’t usually say is, this data was gathered on clear sunny days in a dark sedan. So worst case scenario, in a dark sedan, on a clear sunny 70 degree day, the car could get as hot as 113 degrees in an hour. Which, even though hot, is not a death sentence for most dogs, and neither is 45 minutes at around 100. But it wasn’t 70, it wasn’t a clear sunny day.

An upper 40s partially sunny day is not an over-heated car at risk dog, but this observer believes there is animal abuse going on because the dog was? what? sitting comfortably in a car for an hour without a water dish? And name calls the owner? I don’t know if there was something more going on here, something about being at a resale shop, having this type dog or/and having a rhinestone collar on the dog – an extra level of nastiness. Of course, sarcasm alert, this well fed (OK McD’s in evidence), healthy looking dog ‘ought’ to be taken away, to join the excessive number of bull terrier-type dogs at risk in shelters.

This is a threat. This is bullying. This isn’t whistle blowing to help someone. This isn’t reasonable. So I flagged the post and then thought about whether reposting any part of it promoted the threatening aspect of it.

  1. What should be done if you think a dog is actually in danger of overheating in a car? First observe instead of assuming  – dog panting heavily or tongue curled frantic and car in direct sun, windows shut, front window not shaded and outside temperature warm to hot?  Immediate and dire risk – call the police or animal control. Seems risky, but dog looks fine (please don’t go face up to the windows of a car and stress out the dog) – attempt to find the owner – go into the store or restaurant the car is parked outside of and start asking people. Yes temperature rises fast, but there’s no reason to think the dog will rapidly collapse from heat stroke if the temperature inside the car rises to 100.   You just don’t like it – well then you can blog about it or post your ideas on facebook, but don’t threaten people or call them names or think that taking their fur family member away is doing good. What about breaking into the car? well that would be illegal and the dog might bite you and then have to be quarantined and have behavioral training to get it over the experience. In that case you would not be helping anyone.

2. Can a car get too hot on a 40-50 degree partially sunny day?  No. We have data that says there is up to a 40 degree rise in temp on clear sunny days in dark sedans in full sun. That means that less sun, lighter colored cars, shade, windows open with breeze all mean less of a temperature increase. Dogs tolerate 80 and 90 degrees with no problems – so the answer on this would be no. And the 70 starting temp on the chart might be a clue as to where the usual temperature danger zone lies.

3. Do dogs have to have water available at all times?  Does any land life form have to have water access at all times? Do you?

4. And is bringing a dog along with you to wait in a car somehow mistreatment? There is the argument that leaving your dog home keeps him safe. That’s safe physically, but what about mentally. What about the desire dogs have to be with their person and their love of riding in the car to go someplace. One of the most common reasons for re-homing dogs is not having enough time for them … and this fear for safety takes away ‘car time’ with the dog. What about the people who have dogs along because it helps them feel safe and happy?

I took my dog for a car ride on the same day as this post, we went hiking. She and I got into my car  after it had been sitting in the sun for hours, it was nice in there, I didn’t feel the need to open any windows even though I had my jacket on. But lately I’ve felt I can’t safely take my dog along with me on errands because of the above type of ‘do-gooding.’ You see, my cattle dog wouldn’t take kindly to someone peering in or trying to get her out. Not kindly at all.

My hope remains that if police are called for this type of non-issue they will at least show common sense, or talk to their canine unit, who is also in a car, often with rolled up windows and a sign that tells people not to approach the car. My hope would be that more and more stores would invite dogs in to shop along with their person.

My fear is, with enough general pressure about possible safety hazards, dogs will have to stay home instead of being able to come along for car rides.  There will be laws passed banning leaving dogs in vehicles altogether or passed to let people, who want to intervene, break in to free your dog. And they will be lauded as saving a life, and you will have to try to prove that they didn’t, while paying for the shelter boarding and legal fees of your seized  best- friend dog.

How would you feel if you saw a picture of your dog, in your car on Craig’s list with a post saying you shouldn’t own a dog?



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