Don’t forget pets in the deadly summer heat

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Jason Smathers
Monday, July 12, 2010
— Animal advocates are warning pet owners to keep their pets out of the heat this summer, after a tragic incident in Beloit last week killed a dog.

Anisha Butalla, 24 of Wausau, was arrested Wednesday after police found her 2-year-old pit bull locked in her car. Police broke windows to try to save the dog, which had been in the car for four hours, but it died at the scene. Butalla left the dog inside her car while attending a court hearing, according to police.

Janesville veterinarian William Hicks said because dogs sweat only through their footpads and tongue, the heat in a car can quickly cause heatstroke. The size of the dog doesn’t matter, but color does: The darker the dog’s fur, the more heat it absorbs.

Hicks encouraged owners to leave pets at home if traveling for extended periods of time. If the animal has to go along, it should not be left in the car more than 20 minutes and should be given plenty of water and ventilation.

“Windows have to be cracked—even at 70 degrees—and that means all the windows cracked,” Hicks said.

But that doesn’t include sunroofs, which usually allow more sunlight to heat up the car.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also decried the treatment, warning pet owners in a statement to keep a close eye on any pets left in the sun for even brief periods of time.

Janesville Deputy Police Chief John Olsen said police usually contact the owner of a pet first if the situation is not serious. If the dog is in distress, they’ll try to enter the vehicle, only breaking windows if the dog isn’t responding. While Olsen said they get a few reports of dogs left in cars every year, he doesn’t remember any cases as bad as the one in Beloit.

Owners should understand the legal consequences of leaving pets in cars. If the dog becomes distressed, law enforcement can charge the owner with mistreatment of an animal, which is punishable by a fine. However, if the dog dies or is disfigured as a result, the owner could be charged with a felony.

Last updated: 2:23 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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