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There is absolutely no excuse to leave pets to die in a hot car

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2018-07-04 Lorraine Sommerfeld
a dog sitting on the seat of a car© Provided by Driving.ca

It’s July 1st. Canada’s birthday. It’s sweltering, with the temperatures soaring into record setting territory, the humidity chasing all but the youngest, fittest, and perhaps most inebriated, indoors. It’s hot outside. I’m melting. I think back to being a kid in a house with no air conditioning, and remember that thing about being the youngest. My father fought against central air, no doubt because he was the most inebriated.

The day before in identical temperatures, I’d picked up a car that had been sitting in a yard. As I opened the door, the roasted interior wafted over me. I gingerly leaned in to start it, and couldn’t touch any surface in that car. Every bit of metal was scorching hot, every leather surface searing. I usually shrug off air conditioned seats as a bit over the top, but that day, I put every setting to cold and wished for an air conditioned steering wheel. Even that was too hot to touch.

Video: Hiding From the Sun in the 2018 Audi Q5 (provided by The Drive)

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And yet, a man left his dog in a car at a local restaurant. At lunchtime. Gorgeous dog, from the looks of the pictures the photojournalist I follow dropped into my Twitter feed. The temperature when they rescued him? 66 degrees Celsius. 151 degrees Fahrenheit, for us old schoolers. Somebody left their dog in an oven. So he could have a few cold ones at an East Side Mario’s. Wait. I don’t know what he ate or drank. I’m running a little fiction here, forgive me. But the facts are easy: he left his beautiful dog in a car to cook to death. A car, not unlike the one I’d entered the day before, with no surface I could touch without being burned.

Some of us rant in these pages about people who shouldn’t be driving. Commenters and readers rant even more. I usually opt for a longer view, as most of us are perched in some form of a glass house whether we know it or not. You’ve all cut someone off, you’ve all done dumb tourist moves, you’ve all coasted a stop sign or missed it completely. We’re human, after all. Usually the upshot to our inconsistency or lapse doesn’t have a tragic outcome; we say a silent “oh crap” under our breath and carry on, saved by some muse and making a deal with the traffic gods: I’ll forget about this is you will.

A man left a living creature in his car on purpose and went in to have lunch on the hottest day of the year.

I’ve written ad nauseum about the horrific loss of life when children are inadvertently left in cars and die. I’m sure I’ll write about it again; we lost another child last week in Canada, and there will be more. Hold your fire about how it could never happen to you. It could. It’s about brain wiring, not parenting skills, not love, not selfish absorption with cell phones. A solution will come from understanding this, not sanctimonious assertions that you are a better parent than someone it has happened to.

But the dog? There is no way – no way – that somebody accidentally leaves a dog in a car. Zero.

There are some who do this with children, too. “I’ll be right back,” they say. And they run into get milk or spend a few hours at a casino, depending on the news story. I’m a hardliner: you don’t leave your kids in the car, period. I don’t care the weather, or how you’ve locked the vehicle. Something could happen to you, another car could hit yours, or a thousand other scenarios I haven’t thought up yet. You don’t leave your kids in a car. And yes, I’ve bundled infants and toddlers in car seats and lugged them around, I’ve argued with a four-year-old pulling one way on my arm with another kid squawking in the other one. You don’t leave them in the car.

Thankfully, in this case, police were called and got the dog out of the car alive. The CBC reports about $500 charges were laid. Five hundred bucks. Somebody called to report the animal at 2:37pm, and police say the animal was in the car for 20 minutes before they removed it. 66 degrees Celsius in 20 minutes. With the sunroof open and the windows cracked a little. How can I get through to people that cracking a window or opening a sunroof does nothing to mitigate such detrimental heat? If you heat your oven to 150 degrees and prop the door open a couple of inches, does that mean you’d be willing to touch any part of the interior? Same thing.

The issue of children dying in hot cars is complicated and tragic.

People who leave their dogs in cars do so knowingly, and if they don’t think July 1st qualified as too hot, forget the $500 in fines.

Take the dogs.

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