COURTENAY, B.C. – It’s become commonplace for Comox Valley’s SPCA branch to field calls about dogs being left in cars with little to no ventilation.
“Any day that we have that’s fairly warm we get calls on a daily basis that there are dogs in hot cars,” said the local SPCA’s manager, Emily Priestley.
From Aug. 1 to 8, Comox Valley RCMP received six calls about hot dogs inside vehicles in the valley.
“During this heat, it is just best to leave your dog at home,” said Constable Monika Terragni, the spokesperson for the local detachment.
At a branch level, the Comox Valley BC SPCA doesn’t have the authority to enter a car to remove an animal.
“But we do have special provincial constables that work on Vancouver Island that are able to enter to enter a car if a dog is in distress,” Priestley noted.
Otherwise, concerned citizens are urged to call the SPCA’s cruelty hotline at 1-855-622-7722.
“The cruelty hotline is good at redirecting calls and making sure that it gets either to RCMP or to somewhere where they can redeem the situation and get the animals out,” Priestley said.
If an animal is removed and is showing signs of distress, the first step is to get it to a vet. Danger signs such as exaggerated panting can quickly deteriorate to the animal being in serious danger.
It doesn’t take long for an animal’s life to be put in danger. If it’s 26 C outside, inside a car, even if the windows are cracked open a bit, the inside temperature can reach a sweltering 37 C in 10 minutes, and in 20 minutes, it can elevate to 43 C.
“The normal temperature for a dog is 38 degrees inside its body,” Priestley said. “So obviously once the internal temperature for the dog gets up to about 41 degrees, we’re looking at cell and organ damage, so it can happen very, very quickly.”
A cruelty investigator will take the extreme measure of smashing a car window if the animal no longer actively trying to cool itself, where panting has stopped and it appears it is succumbing to the heat.
Priestley reminded Good Samaritans that smashing a car window to remove an animal from a car can be considered break-and-enter and theft if they enter a vehicle.
“It’s a very frustrating situation for people who are watching it happen,” she said. “That’s why we really need to pressure our municipalities for more bylaws around it so we that have more of an option to help a dog that is in a car.”
Priestley said the local SPCA branch has heard reports from people who believe their cats have been taken from Comox Valley neighbourhoods and dumped in remote locations.
“It is illegal for anybody to abandon an animal whether it be theirs or someone else’s,” Priestley said. “Often what happens is we see people that, their neighbour’s cats are coming into their garden and going to the bathroom in the garden or otherwise being a nuisance.”
Because the Comox Valley doesn’t have any cat bylaws to curb this behaviour, people turn to “illegal methods” to deal with the felines, Priestley said.
“We would see trapping and relocating the animal,” she said. “Obviously that can cause distress. The cats don’t fare well out there. There are lots of predators and no food options. Often they’re old and just not experienced hunters and they don’t have a home out there so this can lead to all sorts of problems.”