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What to know: Protocol for animals left in hot cars

The interior of a locked car can swell to temperatures of over 100 degrees in a matter of minutes. The Humane Society of Lebanon County offers tips on what to do if you see a pet locked in car.Michael K. Dakota, Lebanon Daily News

As we enter summer and experience hotter temperatures, reports of animals left in hot cars start to surface. There is protocol bystanders are advised to take in such situations.

“We wouldn’t suggest anyone break any windows,” Chief Bernard G. Dugan, of the Annville Police Department, said in an interview.

Dugan explained that each situation is unique, but in extreme conditions, they should call 9-1-1.

Cpl. Paul Smith, of the Pennsylvania State Police, explained that when called, the station would dispatch a trooper to assess the situation. If the situation is thought to be perilous for the animal, they will first attempt to find the owner. If the owner cannot be found, they will go about trying to retrieve the animal.

Neglecting an animal in this way falls under crime codes sect. 5511, cruelty to animals explained Cpl. Smith. In other words, a “person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree.” As a penalty, he said, “We could easily cite someone with a summary citation.” Summary citations of this nature are $300, according to Cpl. Smith.

The police departments will interfere with such issues when necessary, but Cpl. Smith said when it comes to extremes scenarios where animals are taken away, “We try not to get involved in any of that.”

The police look for help with animal cruelty calls.

“We try to work in conjunction with the animal rescue people,” explained Cpl. Smith.

Dominique Krow, humane officer in-training at the Humane Society of Lebanon County, is one of those people. She recommended steps for bystanders to follow if they encounter an animal that appears to be in danger. Krow said they should call 9-1-1 if it is an imminent threat. If they unsure, they can call the Humane Society, who have laser thermometers to check car temperatures. Lastly, they can try contacting a store manager to get a hold of the owner. Krow said that in her experience, most of these situations don’t escalate.

“The problem is usually resolved right there,” she said.

The most extreme cases, however, can be disastrous.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), cracking a window for your pet is not enough. On an 80-degree day, your car can reach an alarming 114 degrees in less than 30 minutes, they reported. PETA emphasized that keeping cool for dogs is difficult and can be fatal.

“Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from a heatstroke in just 15 minutes,” they stated.

PETA outlined symptoms for heatstroke as, “restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and lack of coordination.” They recommended that if you see a dog exhibiting these symptoms, to gather the information of the owners car, notify others, monitor the animal in the car until help comes and to call animal control or 911.

If you see an animal this summer exhibiting unhealthy symptoms, please call you local authorities as soon as possible.