MADISON, Wis. - Over the hot and humid weekend, the Public Health Madison and Dane County Animal Services office received an average of 10 calls each day to report dogs being left in hot cars.
Patrick Comfert with Animal Services said this is the usual amount of calls they get on hot summer days, despite constantly warning pet owners of the dangers.
"They're like, 'I'm a great pet owner. I take my dog everywhere with me. I love my dog.' And our response is that in hot temperatures, you can love your dog to death," said Comfert.
He said dispatch officers know to drop everything and get to a call for a hot dog in a car as fast as they can.
They have the authority to break a car window if they see a dog in distress or find the inside of the car to be more than 90 degrees.
A recent law also gives bystanders the ability to break into a car to save a dog after they make sure there is no other way to get in and call 911.
"Dog in a hot car is pretty much a priority call because it can be life threatening," Comfert said.
Cars heat up fast, especially in humid weather. When it is 80 degrees outside, it only takes a few minutes for the inside of a car to reach over 100 degrees.
"They don't sweat so they have no way to get rid of that excess heat other than panting, and so now you have a closed-up car where the temperatures will escalate very quickly," said veterinarian Julia Bates at Madison Veterinary Specialists.
She said a car acts as an oven, attracting and trapping heat. As the temperature rises, a dog's organs begin to shut down.
For short-nose dogs such as boxers and pugs, this will happen faster.
Comfert said they are able to get to most dogs in time to save them, but some die either before officers arrive or later in the day.
"Any dog that's vomiting or lethargic or you know not acting right, having a bloody nose or bloody stool, those would all be signs that perhaps there is more organ damage than what was anticipated," said Bates.
When Animal Services rescues a dog from a car, the owner is given an animal cruelty citation and fined about $300.
If you see a dog in a hot car, call an Animal Services dispatcher at 608-255-2345.
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