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Westport Animal Control: Hot Cars, Dogs Don't Mix

WESTPORT, Conn. – Westport dog owners may sometimes be tempted to bring their four-legged friends along on trips to the store, but during the summer, it’s best to leave your pooch at home.

It takes 10 minutes for the temperature inside a car in the sun to rise 20 degrees, according to Poster Animal Hospital, and like people, dogs can suffer from heat stroke. Although it may seem harmless, leaving a dog in a car can be an act of cruelty, Westport Animal Control Officer Peter D’Amico said.

“Some people think, ‘I won’t be long.’ But five minutes often turns into 15 minutes,” said D’Amico, a retired Westport Police Officer who has been the town’s animal control officer for 21 years.

A dog owner who leaves their pet in a car on a hot summer day can be charged with cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, D’Amico said. According to the statute, the charge carries a fine of up to $1,000, a year in prison or both.

D’Amico said he receives an average of two calls a week during the summer about dogs left in cars. One misconception people have is that it’s safe to leave a dog in a car if the windows are open, he said.

“Sure, a car will heat up faster with the windows closed, but having the windows open doesn’t mean anything on a hot day,” he said.

If a dog is still in a car when D’Amico arrives, and the owner can’t be located and the car is locked, he notifies the Fire Department to come and open the car.

Once the car is opened, the dog is given water and D’Amico measures the interior temperature of the car. Last Wednesday, a woman was charged with cruelty to animals after she allegedly left her dog in the car in 89-degree heat, for at least 35 minutes, with all windows closed, D’Amico said. He said the inside of the car measured 105 degrees. Two weeks before that, a dog was left inside a car that measured 107 degrees, even with the windows partially open, D’Amico said. The owner in that case was not charged.

“The best advice I can give is to leave your dog at home on hot days," said D’Amico, a dog owner.

Poster Animal Hospital recommends that dogs not be left in a car parked even partially in the sun if the outdoor temperature is warmer than 60 degrees.

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