British Columbia

Taking the heat to save pets' lives

Victoria City Councillor Charlayne Thornton Joe and a reporter closed themselves in a hot car to experience firsthand the effects of overheating that can be fatal for pets and small children.

Victoria councillor endures 25 minutes in hot car to demonstrate risk to children, animals

Victoria City Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe said people leave pets in hot cars 'all the time' during the summer despite the risk. (Charlayne Thornton-Joe)

For a small child or a pet, time in a locked car on a hot day can lead to heatstroke or even death.

That was the message for a mother in Vancouver Friday who was scolded by a police officer following complaints that she left two small children in a hot car outside a grocery store.

Meanwhile in Victoria, a city councillor shut herself in a black SUV along with a local TV reporter to personally demonstrate the risk. 

Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe said she considered cancelling the demonstration because the day in Victoria was mild and breezy. "We didn't think it would be hot enough," she said.

It didn't matter. Inside the vehicle the thermometer quickly climbed to more than 50 C within 25 minutes while it remained around 21 C on the street outside. 

Thornton-Joe, an outspoken animal advocate, and CHEK reporter Tess van Straaten experienced heat rash, headaches and profuse perspiration. 

While the temperature outside was 21 C, it quickly rose to 50 C inside the black SUV parked on a Victoria street. (CHEK News)

Volunteer paramedics from St. John Ambulance attended the demonstration in case emergency care was required.  

It wasn't the first time Thornton-Joe locked herself in a hot car to demonstrate the effects of confinement for animals and humans.

Three years ago, she attempted the exercise solo, but could not accurately record the temperature because her iPhone overheated and shut down.

'There would be dogs in cars panting'

"I would be walking downtown and there would be dogs in cars panting," Thornton-Joe said. "I worked with the SPCA to put bylaws in to protect dogs in cars on hot days."

Under the bylaw, dog owners in Victoria can be fined for leaving animals in vehicles without shade, water and ventilation.

Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe worked with the SPCA to help create bylaws to 'protect dogs in cars on hot days.' (The Associated Press)

"This year we've been lucky that the weather hasn't been as hot so we haven't had as many incidents so far," Thornton-Joe said.

"But every year police and our bylaw department are dealing with dogs in cars, they've had to break a few windows," she said. "They've had to issue a few fines which is about $200 to $250."


  • An earlier version of this story said Charlayne Thornton-Joe once worked for the SPCA. In fact, Thornton-Joe worked with the SPCA as a councillor to help enact a bylaw to protect pets in vehicles. She was never an employee.
    Jul 11, 2017 5:11 PM PT