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Dog-gone dangerous: Leaving pets in cars can be deadly

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A stuffed dog named Blaze was the guinea pig for a Hot Car Awareness Day demonstration showing how quickly a car's interior can heat up in summer.

RUTH BONNEVILLE/ WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

A stuffed dog named Blaze was the guinea pig for a Hot Car Awareness Day demonstration showing how quickly a car's interior can heat up in summer. Photo Store

Leaving your dog in your car in the summertime is not such a hot idea.

Blaze -- a stuffed animal -- was left inside a Jeep with the windows cracked open about five centimetres for three hours Saturday at the Pet Valu store on Reenders Drive. The demonstration was organized by Dog Adoption MB and Save a Dog Network Canada for Hot Car Awareness Day.

Temperatures hovered around 26 C in the early afternoon, and the mercury jumped another 10 degrees inside most vehicles.

The event was meant to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving pets in vehicles. Barry Piasta, creator of Dog Adoption MB, spearheaded the awareness campaign.

Two years ago, he suffered a brain injury that affected his speech and memory. He said he is likely to forget someone within 10 to 15 minutes of meeting them and often needs help finding his way home. But he never forgets to fight for the well-being of animals.

'Every time you confront somebody they're combative,

because they know they've done wrong and they're embarrassed'

Piasta began making signs to install in parking lots this summer, which he gives to Manitoba businesses for free. The signs remind people not to leave their dogs in their vehicles and urge bystanders to call 911 if they witness a pet in distress.

"I figured, let me take care of the burden," said Piasta. "Now it's not a cost to (the businesses), and these are signs that are going to last. They're not a flimsy poster that's going to blow away."

Some Manitoba businesses that get frequent calls about dogs left in cars have accepted the free signage from Piasta, including Garden City Shopping Centre, the Walmart in Steinbach and all of the Pet Valu and Best West Pet Foods stores in Winnipeg. Dog Adoption MB and Save A Dog raise funds for the signs by selling T-shirts, baked goods and advertising space on their shared Jeep.

"There's no real statistics on how many pets succumb and die of heat in vehicles, but you hear about it every day," said Piasta.

Mere minutes later, Lynda Miller, a member of Save A Dog Network, walked over from across the parking lot, where she had just spotted a dog trapped in a car for about 20 minutes. She called 911, and fire crews came to the rescue.

Miller had gone into all of the businesses in the surrounding strip mall asking whose dog was trapped inside the car, but no one knew. Some of the business owners brought water to the trapped Husky, squeezing the water through the slightly ajar window, said Miller.

"Then the woman came out and she was combative with me, saying that she rescues dogs, and as a matter of fact, this dog is a rescue, and she's got 10 dogs at home," said Miller.

The woman told her the Husky liked the sun and wasn't bothered by the heat.

"There's a difference between liking the sun and being stuck in it, I told her. Every time you confront somebody they're combative, because they know they've done wrong and they're embarrassed," Miller said. "I was called names, but I don't care. I said, 'I've been called worse by better.' "

Fire crews arrived and gave the woman a warning before she was on her way. Miller said they told her they get about four calls per day about dogs being trapped in hot cars.

"We're all dog activists here, but I just don't keep my tongue in my pocket when I see a dog in a hot car. I gave her a chance, I went to all the businesses, I stood there, and nothing. So I called 911," she said.

Miller said she's encountered three or four cases where dogs were trapped in cars this summer.

"Fortunately, none of the cases ended up being disastrous," she said.

In Langley, B.C. last week, a dog-owner was charged with animal cruelty-related offences after leaving six dogs in her truck when temperatures rose to 25 C in May. Langley RCMP said the six dogs died of heat stroke in the back of a truck.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which was involved with the B.C. case, said in a hot car, animals can suffer heat exhaustion or death within 10 minutes.

jessica.botelho-urbanski@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 17, 2014 A3

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