Soaring temperatures place pets at risk in Okanagan

South Okanagan SPCA manager is concerned with the growing number of calls of dogs stuck inside hot vehicles

The growing number of calls of dogs stuck inside hot cars is worrisome to the Penticton SPCA.

“We are very concerned,” said Tracy Westmoreland, manager of B.C. SPCA South Okanagan.

She estimates they are receiving, on average, five calls a day from the public.

“It is extreme, considering this year, more than any, we have had more media coverage of the concern,” said Westmoreland.

The SPCA recommends if you do see a dog in distress to track down the owner and gently inform them of what you have seen. Westmoreland said you do not want to be confrontational and to be aware of your personal safety. If you cannot find the owner, she said to call the RCMP or SPCA, giving as much detail as possible of the exact location of the vehicle, the licence plate number, make and model and colour of the vehicle.

“Often we don’t get those details and spend a lot of time driving around trying to locate the vehicle, which is very difficult. The dog usually has stopped barking and it is laying down in distress so it can’t be seen at eye level, making it very hard to find that dog,” said Westmoreland.

“You can be an advocate for that dog and it is OK to make that first step and say to the owner, ‘Is this your dog in the car? I think it needs some attention,’ and let them know that it is not OK. Be diplomatic and polite.”

Only an RCMP or SPCA constable can enter a car and only if the animal is in critical distress. Members of the public could face the consequences of breaking and entering charges should they try and get into a vehicle to release the animal. On the flip side, pet owners can face charges of animal cruelty.

Just two weeks ago a dog died in the Real Canadian Superstore parking lot in West Kelowna while two women were allegedly shoplifting. RCMP said all the windows in the vehicle were rolled up and the water supply inside had been exhausted.

“Luckily we haven’t had any fatalities in Penticton, and touch wood that wont happen. Certainly we still need to get the message out though, because people just don’t realize how dangerous it is,” said Westmoreland.

The SPCA manager said they have had calls from concerned people seeing dogs left in cars in the parking lots of big box stores, the beach, medical offices and a mix of other places.

“I do think the message is getting out to the South Okanagan community because we have a better understanding of our weather patterns. To tourists, it still seems to be missing the mark,” said Westmoreland.

Temperatures are expected to remain in the high 20s to 30 C over next few weeks, and Westmoreland pleads with pet owners to leave their dogs at home if they are going out. Education, said Westmoreland seems to be helping spread the word.

For the Penticton SPCA, that starts at a young age. Children’s camps continue to run throughout the rest of the summer at the Penticton SPCA and Westmoreland said dogs left in hot cars is one of the topics.