Seattle Animal Shelter urges pet owners to keep pets safe during hot weather

Summer is almost here, and with it comes outdoor fun and family trips, but for pets it could also bring about safety hazards unbeknownst to pet parents. With temperatures forecasted to remain in the high 70s and low 80s this week, the Seattle Animal Shelter reminds pet owners to exercise good judgment and use common sense when it comes to protecting their pets from the heat.

Never leave your animal unattended in a vehicle, said Seattle Animal Shelter Director Don Jordan. Even on a 70-degree day, cars left in the sun can turn into lethal ovens, reaching fatal temperatures of more than 100 degrees within just a few minutes. And with the movement of the sun, cars originally left in the shade can soon be in direct sunlight.

“Even dogs left locked in cars in the shade with the windows cracked on hot days are at risk of brain damage or death. Dogs must cool themselves through panting and their systems can’t handle high temperatures,” Jordan said. “You may think your dog will be okay because you’ll only be a minute, but it’s just not worth the risk.”

Jordan also reminds pet owners that a new Washington law will soon be in effect that makes it a violation just to leave an animal unattended in a vehicle or enclosed space, if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat or cold, lack of ventilation or lack of water. Penalties under the new law are in addition to potential animal cruelty charges.

The warm weather also creates hazards for cats. As many homes in the Northwest aren’t equipped with air conditioning due to the normally moderate climate, people leave their windows open during warm weather. The fresh air is essential to you and your pets, but be aware of the enticement and danger an open, screenless window can pose for cats.

“Make sure your window screens are secure, especially on second floors and above,” Jordan said. “Open, screenless windows are an invitation to tempt the old adage ‘curiosity killed the cat.’ They may be known for always landing on their feet, but those little paws are no match for the combination of hard ground and gravity when the fall begins six, or even two, stories up.”

Jordan offers the following tips for protecting pets during hot weather:

  • Never leave your animal tethered or kenneled in direct sunlight. Provide a shady area for retreat, such as a dog house, porch or shady tree, and always provide access to plenty of cool water.
  • If you leave animals indoors, open the screened windows, keep a fan running, provide plenty of water, and if possible, leave them in a cool location.
  • Never leave dogs or cats unattended in a closed, locked vehicle. Animals do not perspire like humans; they cool themselves by panting. Vinyl, leather and even cloth seats in vehicles get hot under animals’ feet and prevent them from perspiring through their paws.
  • If you must travel with your pet, carry water. If a trip requires you leave your pet in the car at any point, think about saving that for another day. It’s not worth the risk.
  • Avoid overexerting your animal in hot weather. Exercise is fine when taken in moderation, but obesity, old age, underlying disease and previous bouts of heat stroke can predispose an animal to the condition.
  • For birds, take caution and place the bird’s cage away from direct sunlight during the intense heat of the afternoon. Provide water and fruits and vegetables with high moisture content.

If you see an animal that may be in need of assistance, or if you have questions, contact the Seattle Animal Shelter at (206) 386-7387 (PETS).