Myths debunked about leaving pets in cars

Why locking your dog in your vehicle on a hot day is just not worth the risk to you, your pet or your bank account.

'Even those days when you think it might be okay, it's just safer to leave them at home,' says vet

Why it's just not worth the risk to leave your dog in the car on a hot day

5 years ago
Three myths the Calgary Humane Society wants to debunk about leaving pets in your car on even mildly warm days. 0:41

Originally published June 27.

If you think you can lock your dog in your car this summer and everything will be okay, think again, warn Calgary's law enforcement and animal activists. 

"Whether you have a light-coloured vehicle parked in the shade and it's a huge van, or whether it's a tiny car that's black parked in the sunshine, they're all going to be up at a potentially lethal temperature within an hour," said veterinarian Margaret Doyle.

"In 30 minutes on a day when it's 22, 23 C, you can have temperatures of over 40 C inside the vehicle," Doyle said.

Eighty percent of that temperature increase happens in the first 30 minutes, Doyle said, which is long enough to cause internal organ failure, if not death.

To debunk some common myths, representatives from the Calgary Humane Society, Calgary Fire Department and Calgary Police Service locked themselves in their cars for three, 10-minute long experiments. 

Myth 1: Park in the shade 

The position of the sun changes throughout the day, and the ambient temperature can cause the car to heat up, said Brad Nichols, senior manager of cruelty investigations with the Calgary Humane Society.

In the experiment, the Calgary Fire Department vehicle parked in the shade climbed nearly 10 C in 10 minutes, from 18.6 C to 28.5 C.

Myth 2: A/C on is A-OK

"Air conditioning does fail," said Nichols.

"We do have examples of animals that have died when the owner has had that comfort level that they're doing okay, only to come back to the vehicle and the air conditioning has failed, causing death to the animal."

In their 10-minute long demonstration, the Humane Society left their air conditioning running for the first two minutes.

By the end of the experiment, temperatures had risen 9.4 C from 17.5 C to 26.9 C.

Myth 3: Just roll the windows down

It doesn't matter if you crack the windows just an inch or roll them down all the way, said Brad Nichols — it's still dangerous.

The Calgary Police Service vehicle had an initial temperature of 22.3 C. After 10 minutes, that had risen 3.7 C to 26 C.

"Do not leave an animal in a hot car. It's not worth the risk," Nichols said.

Bottom line

Nichols said if you think you might have to leave your dog in the car, even for a short period of time, it's better to leave your pet at home. 

Leaving your pet locked in your vehicle can have serious consequences, including damage to your property, loss of your pet, a $20,000 fine and charges under the Animal Protections Act and Criminal Code. 

"The risk is just not worth the consequences to your pet, your property, your bank account, or your freedom," Nichols said.

With files from Mike Spenrath