There is no excuse for leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle, yet every summer the Ontario SPCA receives calls about pet owners who put their animals in jeopardy. Owners leaving their pets in vehicles during the hot summer months is an ongoing problem that puts animals at risk.

No Hot Pets — an annual campaign by the Ontario SPCA in partnership with SPCAs and humane societies across Canada — is working to change that. The campaign launches after the Victoria Day long weekend and runs throughout June, July and August, aims to educate the public about the dangers of leaving pets unattended in vehicles during the summer months.

“Leaving your pet unattended in a vehicle is one of the most irresponsible things an owner can do. Leave your pet at home or, if you must take your pet, make sure that someone is with them at all times,” says Connie Mallory, Chief Inspector, Ontario SPCA.

When Ontario SPCA officers respond to a report about a pet — usually a dog — left in a vehicle, they often confront surprised owners who didn’t realize they had put their pet in danger. Excuses range from “I left the window down for him” or “I wasn’t going to be gone long.”

However, parked cars can quickly reach deadly temperatures, even on relatively mild days with the car parked in the shade and the windows slightly open. Dogs have a limited ability to sweat, so even a short time in a hot environment can be life-threatening. A dog's normal body temperature is about 39°C and a temperature of 41°C can be withstood only for a very short time before irreparable brain damage or even death can occur.

If a dog is showing signs of heat stroke — excessive panting and drooling, listlessness or unconsciousness — prompt veterinary medical attention is vital. In the meantime, wet the fur immediately with lukewarm to cool water, not cold water. Bring the pet into the shade and offer drinking water.

So what should you do if you see a pet left in a car? Call 310-SPCA (7722) or your local police immediately. While concerned citizens might feel compelled to break the vehicle’s window in an attempt to free the animal, keep in mind that it is considered property damage and is illegal. It can also be a safety issue. Police and Ontario SPCA officers are trained to know when to break a window and have the skills and tools to do so safely to protect themselves, the animal, and the public.

The Ontario SPCA is also urging pet owners to visit and take the No Hot Pets pledge, promising to never leave your pets unattended in a vehicle. You can also do your part to raise awareness about this issue by using #nohotpets on social media.