UMATILLA COUNTY — The days are long, the pools are open, and temperature predictions are showing highs in the 90s this week. While summertime is a relaxing season for many, it’s also a potentially dangerous time for dogs and children left in cars at the mercy of their guardians.
“We haven’t taken that many calls this year,” Lt. Charles Byram of the Pendleton Police Department said. “The weather is a little milder.”
But, Byram said, the calls do happen. Usually in parking lots outside stores like Safeway or Walmart.
Last month in Medford, a man received a felony charge for animal abuse after falling asleep in his home and leaving his dog unattended in a car. The 4-year-old Miniature Pinscher did not survive the incident.
While it might not seem like a big deal to leave a furry companion in the car for a few minutes, the thermometer begs to differ. Temperate 80-degree weather can cause a car to heat up to 99 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the Humane Society.
Byram said within an hour, the temperature in a car could rise 30 to 50 degrees from the outside temperature.
“You’re putting them at risk for heat stroke and possibly death,” said Umatilla County Public Health deputy director Alisha Southwick. “Rolling down the window is not enough. It doesn’t help.”
Hermiston Police Department Chief Jason Edmiston said that in Hermiston, calls about animals in cars increase in the summer.
This year, the department has handled nearly 300 dog-related calls but it’s hard to say how many of those calls were caused by owners leaving pets in cars.
He said the department prefers to have police officers, rather than code enforcement, handle these calls.
In 2017 it became legal in Oregon to break into a motor vehicle to rescue a child or domestic animal.
Anyone who does so is required to stay at the scene until law enforcement arrives. But it must first be determined that the vehicle is locked, and that there is no way for the child or animal to escape the vehicle. It must also be determined that the entry is necessary because the subject is in imminent harm.
But what does imminent harm look like?
Dogs suffering from heat stroke can be found panting more than usual, drooling and acting drowsy, and possibly even vomiting, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They might have gums and tongues that look redder than normal, too.
Byram said if someone spots an animal, or even a child, in a parked car who looks to be in danger, it might be better to call the police department before taking action, if time allows it.
“We’re there in a matter of minutes,” he said.