portrait of australian shepherd dog locked in car

Through the year and particularly in the summer, the Arizona Humane Society educates the public in a dozen different ways on how to protect their pets from hot weather.

It never seems enough.

Pets are still left inside hot cars, law enforcement is constantly called to release them and emergency medical attention is often needed to revive them.

“Despite all the proactive measures we take, and all of the messages we put out there, every year we see this happen,” said Bretta Nelson, public relations manager of the Arizona Humane Society. “Sometimes we’re able to save the pet in time and sometimes the pets do pass away.”

Often, it’s ignorance on the part of newcomers to the Valley who move from cool climes and are not familiar with Arizona’s extreme summer heat. Sometimes, it’s just plain carelessness.

“You never ever want to leave a pet in the car,” Nelson said.

If it’s 100 degrees outdoors, the inside temperature of a car can reach 140 degrees in just minutes. Even a 75-degree day could turn deadly for a dog or a cat, she said. Find out what legal trouble you could encounter if you lock your pet in a hot car.

Chris West, the society’s field operations manager, answers about three to five calls per week in the summer about dogs trapped in cars or pets kept outdoors without adequate protection.

“Animal owners basically need to treat their animals the same way they treat their kids,” he said. “If it’s too warm to have a child in the car, it’s certainly too warm to have a dog in the car.”

West said that people sometimes leave water in the car, and also leave the windows cracked. However, in an hour or so, the water reaches the same temperature as the car’s interior.

“The animals are not able to cool themselves by drinking that water,” he said.

Malinda Malone of Ahwatukee Foothills has groomed pets for about 18 years and now owns Diamond Cut Pet Spa on E. Warner Road, where she grooms about 100 dogs every week.

With that many animal owners within her reach, Malone has an effective vehicle to educate the public, which she feels is “definitely necessary.”

“A lot of pet owners just don’t know that the heat is dangerous for their animals. They think that because humans can be out for an extended period of time, their dog can be also,” she said. “But, pets can’t because they don’t sweat like we do, they have a fur coat on and they just can’t keep themselves cool enough during the summer.”

Malone said it doesn’t have to be overly warm for disasters to happen.

“If its 70 to 80 degrees, it’s hot enough for dogs that don’t have long enough snouts or muzzles to be able to cool themselves,” she said. “So it all depends on the types of animals.”

At the Diamond Cut Pet Spa, Malone also provides cardiopulmonary resuscitation workshops for pet owners. Those are eight-hour classes with a hands-on approach where participants practice on stuffed animals, “until everybody’s really comfortable doing the skills.”

Cooling overheated pets is one of the topics discussed. “It has to be done slowly; otherwise, they can get a shock and die just from that,” Malone said.

West and his team also revive such animals with rapid cooling methods. They spray their pads and the insides of their ears with a misted alcohol, administer a subcutaneous or intravenous coolant or place them inside an air-conditioned kennel. If all else fails, they transport the animal to the Second Chance Animal Trauma Hospital, a shelter based trauma hospital in Phoenix for homeless pets, where more invasive cooling procedures are available.

If you witness a pet in distress, contact Arizona Humane Society’s Emergency Field Dispatch at 602-997-7585 ext. 2073. You should also call 911, notify any nearby businesses to page the owner and then stay with the car.

Depending on the city or area the situation happens, it may not be legal for you to break a car window yourself. Be sure to contact an authority and request instructions before taking matters into your own hands.

Learn more about how to keep your pets safe in the heat, the signs of heat exhaustion and what steps to take if your pet overheats.

– Srianthi Perera, East Valley Tribune / Edited for Phoenix.org