Dogs, cars dangerous mix

Summer heat can be lethal to canines left in vehicles



Twelve-year-old Chalka sits with her owners in their car outside City Market in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday. Dogs left unattended in closed cars during summer months run the risk of injury or even death from the extreme heat.

— Local officials urge residents and visitors to use common sense when it comes to leaving their pets unattended in cars.

Summer is the time of year when law enforcement agencies get the largest number of complaints about dogs left in cars, and it's also the time of year when doing so is most hazardous to the health of canines.

"Well, the biggest thing is don't leave dogs in the car," said Julie Enderby, a staff member at the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter. "If it's too hot for you, it's definitely too hot for them."

Leaving dogs inside vehicles in the summer heat can be especially dangerous for larger dogs, dogs with lots of fur and dogs with short noses.

"The biggest problem is people need to remember dogs don't sweat, they pant," veterinarian Mike Gotchey said. "When they're in the car, they get heat exhaustion. They can get brain damage, and that can eventually lead to death."

Under a state statute regarding cruelty to animals, pet owners face misdemeanor charges if convicted of leaving their pets in a car.

Steamboat Springs police Sgt. Dale Coyner said it's not uncommon for officers to receive calls about animals left in cars. And although Coyner said officers refer most of the calls to Animal Control, it's an issue law enforcement agencies don't take lightly.

"We certainly encourage people to not leave animals in cars for any amount of time," Coyner said. "In the summer it can quickly exceed 100 degrees (inside a closed vehicle). These are calls we take very seriously."

Under the animal section of the municipal code, Coyner said the law states no person should leave an animal in the car when it is 70 degrees or warmer, unless it's determined the car is properly ventilated.

"It's really a judgment call," Coyner said.

Although Enderby and Gotchey advise against leaving a dog in a car, they said if a person must do so, he or she should take every precaution possible.

Those precautions include parking in shady areas, leaving car windows open and leaving a bowl of water for the dog.

"Really it's just a matter of common sense," Enderby said. "Usually it's better to leave the dog at home."

If a dog has been left for any period of time in a vehicle, Gotchey said to look for symptoms of heat exhaustion, which include panting, gums that lack color, lethargy, staggering and incoherence.

"People are pretty smart of it," said Gotchey, adding he sees very few cases each summer. "But it can happen."

Gotchey also cautioned people to not overexert their dogs during the summer months. Because Steamboat offers many activities suitable for people and their dogs, he said it's especially important to make sure dogs are properly hydrated.


Tom Whiddon 9 years, 10 months ago

I know that it is illegal but if you must leave your dog in the car for a short time leave the car and airconditioner running. Don't forget an extra key. It may cost you some extra gas but your best friend will appreciate staying cool! I would bet that law enforcement wouldn't cite you unless your car slipped into gear and caused an accident.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 10 months ago

gotta grip...........I am not kidding, life is life, there is no excuse, period. these are lives we are responsible for, little difference compared to a child if any.........


delilah 9 years, 10 months ago

unless your car overheats, stalls out then the pet dies....seen it happen to police k-9 dogs. Just leave 'em home, then go to the store.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 10 months ago

should NOT be a misdemeaner, should be murder in the second or third degree, these animals are totaly dependent on us, we are their guardians, with that comes a lot of responsibility no excuse for harming your dog this way, their is not anything so important to make the "mistake" of leaving he or she in the car like that.................


JazzSlave 9 years, 10 months ago


I'm an unrepentant dog lover who would gladly support stiffer penalties, but 2nd & 3rd degree murder? Get a grip.


JazzSlave 9 years, 10 months ago

If you see little or no distinction between a dog and a child, then you may need help.


fish 9 years, 10 months ago

That makes sense, have you seen his old lady!

Sorry this one was just lying there waiting for a punch line. Not really meant to insult Condoguy's wife, girlfriend, or significant other.


thecondoguy1 9 years, 10 months ago

there is a distinction for sure, but I see no distinction in the liability for causing the death of a dog in such a way, this would be an awful death to a living being and I believe should be punished beyond a misdemeaner, there is no more excuse for allowing a dog to die this way than a child.

My wife is a outstanding, beautiful woman, I am proud, and honored to be in her life, apology accepted. God bless all...............


dundalk 9 years, 10 months ago

As an ardent animal lover, I can understand condoguy's feelings with regards to Spot being left in a car during the summer heat.

Has anyone even seen what a dog looks like after it has succumb to heat prostration? It's a horrid death, painful and I can't believe that some treat "man's best friend" in such a low way.

I do leave my dogs in the car from time to time in the dead of winter, while I do errands. (i.e. the post office, bank, etc) The only time my dogs are in the car during the summer is when we are headed to the river for a cool dip.

I would love to see tougher laws on animal cruelty cases. Too often we hear about animals left to fend for themselves, then are rescued only to be returned to the terrorist after the court orders it so. What's wrong with that picture?

For more on horrendous animal conditions on a broader scale, please visit, the "Best Friends Animal Sanctuary" website. There is a heartwarming story about our four-legged saints and their plight from puppy mills.


dundalk 9 years, 10 months ago

Just a 2 minute news report to give you an indication of what people can do to animals. Want to help - VOLUNTEER! \

and... for more info on the puppy mill problem


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