Warm weather has arrived all over the country. (Except maybe for our friend Crepes who had snow last week, but Chicago doesn’t count.) With warm weather comes something we all need to remember: never leave a pet in a parked vehicle.
You’re probably thinking that this is a cat blog, and dogs in parked cars are the real problem. Why are we even talking about it here? The head peep helps drive transports when cats need to be moved through the state. Many of our readers work in rescue, and may have to bring cats to adoption events weekly. And, let’s face it, nearly all of us have to go to the vet sometime, unless we are lucky enough to have a vet who makes housecalls. So remembering safety in cars is important for all of us.
Oh, it’s not too hot out. I’ll just leave a window cracked while I run into the store!
A study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics about the potential for heat stress on children in cars tested the temperature rise in a car in weather ranging from 72 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit. The study found that regardless of the outside ambient temperature, the rate of temperature rise inside the car was not very different. The average increase was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit every 5 minutes, with 80% of the temperature rise occurring during the first 30 minutes. The average increase in temperature inside the car was 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Leaving the windows open 1.5 inches didn’t help decrease the rate of the temperature rise in the car very much. Instead of 3.9 degrees every five minutes, the temperature inside the car rose 3.1 degrees every five minutes. The final temperature inside the car was the same whether the windows were completely closed or cracked open.
Why do cars heat up so much on even moderate days?
Cars create what is known as the greenhouse effect. Glass is transparent to solar radiation at short wavelengths, so short-wavelength IR (infrared) radiation passes through the car windows into the vehicle. Everything in the car absorbs the short-wave IR (infrared) radiation (dashboard, steering wheel, seats, etc.) becomes warmer. The warmed objects inside the ar give off long-wavelength infared light. The glass of the car is not transparent to long-wavelength IR, so instead of allowing it to pass through like it did the energy from the sun, it absorbs it and emits it back into the car.
The head peep will admit it… she has left us in an unattended car before. When we have early morning vet appointments, there’s a nearby coffee shop with parking in the shade of the building, and she has run in to pick up coffee. Now that she has read these numbers, it won’t ever be happening again, even if the car is in the full shade of the early morning. Our safety is more important than a latte!
What can you do if you see an animal locked in a parked car?
Since not everyone realizes how quickly parked cars can become dangerous, pets may still be left in parked cars by well-intended owners. What can you do to help if you see an animal locked in a parked car, especially on a hot day?
- Try to locate the car’s owner. Hopefully, they are nearby and will respond quickly when you start looking for them.
- Go to the security office or store manager for nearby shops and ask them to page the person that owns the car. Stay with the car to be sure that the owner returns.
- Call 911. If local security cannot help you, call the authorities for assistance. Fourteen states have laws against leaving pets unattended in vehicles, and even if your state doesn’t have that law, animal cruelty laws may apply to the situation, so don’t hesitate to ask for help for a trapped pet, especially if they are showing signs of heat distress.
Keep safety in mind whenever animals go along for the ride in warm weather!
The Do it Yourself Greenhouse, How do Greenhouses Work?
Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Heat Stress from Enclosed Vehicles Moderate Ambient Temperatures Cause Significant Temperature Rise in Enclosed Vehicles
PAWS Animal Adoption Center, What to do if You Find an Animal Locked in a Hot Car
Animal Legal and Historical Center, Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Locked Vehicles