Temperatures in vehicles can rise rapidly in warm, sunny weather and quickly become hot enough to seriously impair a dog’s or other pet’s health.

The current penalties for pet owners who leave their animals behind in hot vehicles are the toughest in Canada. However, these measures haven’t been enough to stop some from putting their pets at risk.

BC SPCA has received more than 1,200 calls about animals left in hot vehicles this summer, and that number is on the rise, and already higher than the approximately 1100 calls the SPCA responded to in 2014.

Careless owners who expose pets to excessive heat and/or deprive them of adequate ventilation can be charged with Animal Cruelty, which faces a maximum fine of $75,000 and two years in jail.

The province is now consulting BC SPCA, the B.C. College of Veterinarians, UBCM, local governments and police services to increase the options to rescue animals that have been left in cars and are suffering heat related distress.

Changes are expected to be implemented by Spring 2016.

“While many British Columbians are known to indulge their pets, the B.C. government expects every pet owner to be responsible, and not risk their dog’s lives by leaving them in hot cars,” said Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick.

“Despite awareness campaigns and Canada’s toughest penalties under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, we need to do more in situations when pets are needlessly put at risk.”

Symptoms of heatstroke:

  • exaggerated panting (or the sudden stopping of panting)
  • rapid or erratic pulse
  • salivation
  • anxious or staring expression
  • weakness and muscle tremors
  • lack of coordination
  • tongue and lips red (which may eventually turn bluish in colour)
  • convulsions or vomiting
  • collapse, coma and death

If you see a dog in a car on a warm or humid day and you believe it may be in trouble, ask nearby stores to page customers.  If the dog is in distress call the BC SPCA’S Animal Cruelty Hotline at 1-855-622-7722. The call centre is open seven days per week: Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If it is an animal emergency outside of these hours, please contact your local police department, RCMP or animal control immediately.

Emergency treatment for dogs:

If the dog shows symptoms of heatstroke follow these instructions:

  • Immediately move the animal to a cool, shady place.
  • Wet the dog with cool water.
  • Fan vigorously to promote evaporation. This process will cool the blood, which reduces the dog’s core temperature.
  • Do not apply ice. This constricts blood flow which will inhibit cooling.
  • Allow the dog to drink some cool water.
  • Take the dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible for further treatment.

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