At least four dogs died in the Treasure Valley in June after being left in a locked vehicle in hot temperatures. The month was the hottest June on record in Boise dating back to 1875.
The Idaho Humane Society has been responding to a higher number of calls for pets locked in hot vehicles, according to a Humane Society news release, and have nearly surpassed last year’s numbers.
“It’s pretty unprecedented for a month,” Idaho Humane Society Communications Manager Kristine Schellhaas said. “One of those cases, the owner didn’t realize the dog had even been in her car. The dog jumped in.”
One way to help a dog is to keep someone in the car. Albertsons also has dog houses with air conditioning out front, she said, but it’s best to leave pets at home.
When a call comes in to Animal Care and Control, Humane Officers are dispatched to the car. The officers can take the temperature of the vehicle using heat guns and will look to see if the animal is in distress. The humane society will ask the person who called in to go into store and see if the store can page the owner, she added.
If the dog is in distress and the owner has not yet returned, Humane officers can break into the vehicle. Officers will take the dog’s temperature and transfer it to their veterinary medical center.
Signs of distress include panting without closing its mouth, frequent drooling and lethargy, she said. Dogs with shorter snouts will have a harder time cooling down. How a dog reacts depends on the dog, so a Chihuahua which likes the heat might do better than a husky, for example.
“Sometimes owners have left the car running and they think the car is going to stay running the entire time,” Schellhaas said. “They don’t understand their vehicle’s limitations.”
The city of Boise updated its code about animals and pets earlier this year, and one of the changes prohibits leaving animals “unattended in cars under weather conditions that endanger their well-being.”
Also, individuals who enter a motor vehicle or trailer, including by force, in order to rescue a domestic animal would be immune from criminal penalties and civil liability within the city. But before entering to rescue the animal, the person must call law enforcement or 911.
“You check the doors and you ensure there’s no owner and you recognize the dog is actually in a dire straits situation,” Boise City Council Member TJ Thomson said. “You immediately call 911, you say ‘Hey, I’m going to do this.’ They should be able to say ‘Yeah, we can’t get there for another 10 minutes.’”
A similar bill failed in the Legislature in 2018.
“It should be state law,” Thomson said. “I don’t see it happening any time soon.”
This summer has been hot. Earlier in July, Boise tied a record of nine consecutive days of 100 degrees or more. On Monday, the National Weather Service Boise tweeted the day would break the record of the number of consecutive days with a low of 60 or higher. Monday marked 38 days, since the last time the temperatures went below 60 was June 18.
“The timing of this was impeccable, just because it went into law last month,” said Thomson, of the city’s new animal ordinance. Thomson said he was concerned about the impact of high temperatures on pets.
There have been 239 total cruelty animal in hot car reports from May through July 20, according to the release. Those numbers include 146 in Boise, 72 in Meridian, 13 in Eagle, five in unincorporated Ada County and three in Kuna.
“When the temps are as high as they are, it can become dangerous in minutes,” Schellhaas said. “Any time when it’s over 72 degrees, that’s when you should urge caution.”