5 signs a dog left in a vehicle is in distress (and what you should do if you see one)

Watch above: The Edmonton Humane Society is reminding people not to leave their pets in hot vehicles. As Eric Szeto reports, one man learned the hard way Wednesday.

EDMONTON – As the mercury rises, pet owners are once again being reminded not to leave animals alone in vehicles, where temperatures can quickly become dangerous — if not deadly — within minutes.

“It’s absolutely something that’s taken very seriously,” said Peace Officer Grey, with Animal Protection Services.

READ MORE: 5 summer safety tips for pet owners

On Wednesday, Clayton Spooner of B.C. learned that the hard way. Despite parking in the shade and leaving the windows of his truck open, when he got back to his vehicle, his two dogs were gone.

“It’s like somebody stealing my children,” he said.

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“I didn’t do anything wrong. My dogs were in a comfortable situation…If they needed water, there’s a bottle of water there. They would bust it open if they needed it, you know, that’s the way they are.”

He maintains that he was in a medical clinic for just 20 minutes, and that the inside of his vehicle wasn’t even hot when he got back.

The Edmonton Humane Society (EHS) begs to differ.

“When [fire officials] measured the temperature inside the vehicle, it was approximately 120°F, which is about 48°C approximately,” said Officer James of Animal Protection Services.

READ MORE: Toronto cop bakes cookies in hot car

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In the end, Spooner was able to get his dogs back and it looks like he won’t be charged.

Others, however, won’t necessarily be as lucky.

“Fines can go up to $20,000 and a lifetime prohibition of owning animals,” said Grey.

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Still, people continue to leave their pets in their cars each summer. In June alone there were 60 calls to the EHS for this issue. Edmonton Fire Rescue Services says their calls have doubled over the past year, which can be taxing on the department. District Chief Trevor Whyte estimates that in about 50 per cent of the cases, fire fighters didn’t need to be called.

According to animal enforcement, if a dog seems alert, is standing upright and barking, he is likely not in distress.

Here are 5 signs of distress to watch out for:

1. Excessive panting or drooling.

“When they’re inside a vehicle, they start panting and breathe in the warm air,” explained Grey. “And as they breathe it in over and over, it’s increasing their internal body temperatures and that’s why they start to suffer.”

2. The dog’s tongue has turned dark purple.

Grey says this is sign that the dog’s internal body temperature has risen to a dangerous degree.

3. The animal is behaving frantically — pawing at the window, or trying to stick its nose out.

4. Loss of bowels.

5. Lethargic, and unresponsive behaviour.

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This is when the animal can really be in trouble, Grey says.

“The eyes may become glazed over…Typically what you’ll see is you’ll see them trying to get to a cooler place in the vehicle. So maybe on the ground by the passenger or driver’s seat.”

You can find more information on the Edmonton Humane Society’s website.

So what should you do when you see an animal left alone in a vehicle?

“Typically somebody’s parked outside a department store. Grab the license plate, go inside the department store and have them paged back to their vehicle immediately,” said Grey. “That’s how you can help.”

Officials advise against trying to get the animal out yourself, explaining that pets are considered property and you could risk being charged.

You could also get yourself attacked by the animal you’re trying to free.

If an animal is showing signs of distress, people are asking to first call the Edmonton Humane Society Protection Department at 780-491-3517 and leave a message with details.

The Humane Society says officers try to call back within 15 minutes. However, if a person doesn’t get a call back in that time, EHS recommends calling 911 if it’s an emergency.

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If you do end up calling 911, fire officials ask that you stay by the vehicle and wait until they arrive in order to help them find the vehicle.

Over the past couple years, animal enforcement says two people have been convicted for leaving their dogs in hot cars.

With files from Eric Szeto, Global News

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