West Shore RCMP Sgt. Max Fossum sits with his one-year-old lab Chelsea. Fossum urges drivers to be safe during the summer months when leaving dogs in the car. West Shore RCMP will respond to reports of animals locked in cars during hot weather.

Hot days, fur coats don’t mix

“As soon as it’s a nice day, everybody’s happy except for the SPCA. I can’t believe people leave dogs (in vehicles) in this weather.”

Before Max Fossum leaves his dog in the car, he is sure to carefully assess the situation.

“Put yourself in the car and think ‘how long could you withstand the heat with the windows rolled and no air conditioning?’” asked Fossum, a sergeant with the West Shore RCMP and a longtime dog owner.

If Fossum leaves his lab Chelsea in the car, he makes sure there’s water in the vehicle, and that he parks in a shaded area. He’s also never gone too long.

“But remember (even if you parked in the shade) the sun can change,” Fossum said. “We all love our dogs, (so) make sure your dog is safe.”

And while most people are happy the warm weather finally looks like it’s going to stick around, Penny Stone is bracing for the worst.

“I hate hot days for that reason,” said Stone, manager of the Victoria branch of the B.C. SPCA. “As soon as it’s a nice day, everybody’s happy it’s a nice day except for the SPCA. I just can’t believe people leave their dogs (in vehicles) in this kind of weather.”

Heading into the weekend, temperatures are forecast in the 20 C range. But inside vehicles it will quickly soar to more than 30 C, Stone said, even if parked in the shade with the windows cracked open.

Within five to 10 minutes of being left in a hot vehicle, dogs can become dehydrated, suffer heat stroke and even die, she said, adding it doesn’t have to be hot outside for the temperatures inside to skyrocket.

“If your dog doesn’t die, it could retain permanent brain damage,” she cautioned. “Think of sitting in your car in a fur coat in the sun.”

Some pet owners don’t realize their dogs are only able to sweat by panting and through the pads on their feet, limiting their ability to cool down.

“(Heat stroke) happens so fast,” Stone said. “The problem is people think that, ‘I’m just going to run in and get a loaf of bread.’”

Staff with Victoria Animal Control Services, which operates in Victoria, Esquimalt and Oak Bay, responded to two dogs left in the enclosed bed of a pickup truck last month.

“They were sweltering. They were in very poor shape,” said Ian Fraser, the company’s senior animal control officer.

The cab was finally opened and the owner issued a $300 fine for failing to provide adequate ventilation and water to his pets, which were able to recover.

“The animals had defecated inside the back of the truck, an obvious sign of stress,” said Fraser, who wouldn’t say where the truck was parked.

With the onset of summer, he expects his team will become even busier.


– With files from Charla Huber and Erin McCracken

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