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A dogged problem: dogs left in cars

A car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator and can rapidly chill your pet.
Hannah Hawkins / Mainstream
A car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator and can rapidly chill your pet.

The sound broke the stillness of the morning, as a dog was barking in the parking lot near the Technical Center building on top of the hill, the mournful cry of a pet that had been left in the back of a truck while the owner attended classes. Unfortunately, it was not an isolated incident, and the noise is a distraction for students who have complained

Leaving a dog unattended in a vehicle in hot temperatures is an act that can have serious legal ramifications. “In summer we end up charging people with neglect. Sometimes I have to take animals out of vehicles and I have to charge people.” Deputy Lee Bartholomew of Douglas County Animal Control said.

Yet leaving a pet in a car when the temperatures are cool is not as frequently enforced. UCC, however, does have a policy in place about just such an issue.

“They can’t be left unattended,” Security Guard Justan Pool said, “They have to be on leashes if you walk them, they have to be under your control at all times.”

The relevant law in Oregon, ORS 167.310(7) provides criteria for “minimum care” which includes access to food and water and other requirements. Both second and first degree animal neglect address the issue of failing to provide minimum care. And under that criteria two different dog owners in Ashland and one in Sheridan were charged with neglect, according to the Animal Law Section of the Oregon State Bar.

The truth is, most, if not all of the neglect charges against pet owners have occurred during the heat of summer, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to citizens who leave their pets alone in a vehicle during the cool months.

Whether the dog gets hurt or not, students and staff who leave their pets unattended in a vehicle on campus can be cited. Deputy Bartholomew recently cited a dog owner who had left a dog unattended in a vehicle parked in the Technical Center parking lot. “We’ve talked to somebody who left their dog here, and somebody did call [authorities],” student Kristin Johnston said, “It was really cold, and the dog was outside, and it was wet. This was a little dog, and that’s why we got upset. Big dogs, the way they’re built, and their fur and everything, they can stay warm. Little dogs don’t have that.”

Summer Hall, UCC student and Adoptions Counselor at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal said, “The best thing is leave your pets at home. They’ve got their comfortable beds, they’ve got food, they’ve got water, they’ve got access to going to the bathroom versus being in your cold car,”

According to the Roseburg Human Society’s President Cheryl Donahoo, “In this county there are a prolific group who take dogs and sell them to labs. I would not take my dogs to town. I see no good reason to do it.”

According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association’s website, “cold cars also pose significant risk to your pet’s health. You’re already familiar with how a car can rapidly cool down in cold weather; it becomes like a refrigerator, and can rapidly chill your pet. Pets that are young, old, ill, or thin are particularly susceptible to cold environments and should never be left in cold cars. Limit car travel to only that which is necessary, and don’t leave your pet unattended in the vehicle.”

Likewise the American Kennel Club web page adds “Don’t leave your dog alone in a car without proper precautions. If the car engine is left on, the carbon monoxide will endanger your dog’s life.”

“What if the dog gets hurt in the car and you’re not there?” Hall said, “I wouldn’t leave my kids in the car, basically.”

Donahoo agrees with that assessment “I wouldn’t do anything to my dog that I wouldn’t do to my child.”