By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News
A dog was left alone in a hot car this weekend in the H-E-B parking lot at the corner of RM 620 and RM 2222, attracting the attention of concerned bystanders.
A woman in the parking lot Sunday afternoon first noticed the female Husky’s distress, who the witness says was, “whining and crying” with her head and one leg out of the car’s window, which had been left cracked.
The dog’s cries quickly drew a crowd. Several more women and an H-E-B employee arrived to help the dog by giving it water and pouring water over its head to cool it.
An eyewitness account
The first woman to help, who agreed to be interviewed on the condition of anonymity, lives near Lakeway and was shopping that day.
“I had gone into H-E-B and was only in there for maybe 20-35 minutes,” she described. “I noticed a dog with her head out the window of a vehicle… then another woman and I went over to the dog and a big crowd formed. And we were… panicking. We were concerned with this dog who was obviously in distress.”
They gave the dog, who the witness speculates was less than a year old, some water to drink. The Husky, “was pretty desperate… she was lapping (the water) up.”
The dog was not there when the witness went into the store, so she guessed the dog was in the car for less than 20 minutes.
She said the blacktop was so hot that she was hopping around on the pavement. The high on July 12 as reported by The Weather Channel was 94 degrees.
The witness praised two H-E-B employees who came out to help. The employees informed everyone present that law enforcement had needed to break car windows at least three times in past incidents in the same parking lot.
“Just stupidity and ignorance”
Two females eventually returned to the car but denied even owning the dog. One H-E-B employee informed them that law enforcement had been called. Said the source, “(The two women) seemed very cool and calm… I think they were just wanting to get out of there. I don’t think they really comprehend just how quickly temperatures can rise and just how badly dogs can suffer.”
In a video the witness took of the incident, the dog can be heard panting in the background while those gathered spoke to the two women.
One man expressed a common sentiment of anger toward the women. As the witness described it, the man said, “‘This is a criminal offense… How would you like someone to do this to you?’ It was powerful,” she said.
Most surprising to the witness was the level of hostility displayed by onlookers and those commenting in online posts toward the two young women. The witness feels that the two, who left the dog in the car, did not act with malice but instead, “were just stupid…. just stupidity and ignorance. So hopefully this story will save a life or deter someone from taking a dog in the car in the first place.” She emphatically hopes that the story does not spur a new wave of anger toward the young women.
Police arrived on the scene after the young women had already left with the dog, and a report was filed, which is currently ongoing.
Prohibited by law
The H-E-B parking lot is inside the Austin city limits, where by law it is illegal to leave a dog or cat in a vehicle wherein the animal is endangered by high or low temperatures or insufficient ventilation.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office, when asked to comment on animal endangerment laws outside the city limits, replied that the Sheriff’s Office follows the same guidelines.
Those who fail to comply with animal safety laws can face confiscation of their pet, civil penalties or both.
The dangers of heat
Temperatures at the time of the incident — between 1-2 p.m. — were over 90 degrees. According to the website of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), the interior temperature of a car left parked in 90 degree weather will reach 119 degrees within 20 minutes.
An internal temperature of higher than 106 degrees in a dog is indicative of heatstroke, which can quickly be fatal, Long-haired dogs and dogs with flat faces such as Pugs (who cannot pant as well) are especially vulnerable.
Texas is the only state in the nation to have no state laws that specifically address this issue. However, the state does have laws against animal cruelty that have been used in the past to prosecute individuals who endangered their animals by leaving them in a vehicle.
Besides being able to enforce animal endangerment laws, law enforcement has also had to grapple with this issue from within.
A Central Texas police officer from Madisonville (approximately 90 miles northwest of Houston) was placed on administrative leave after his police dog was found dead in his patrol SUV in September of 2014. The dog, a 5-year-old Belgian Malinois named Baron, was left in the vehicle for several hours after the officer went off duty and returned home. Temperatures at the time were in the low 90s.
What can you do?
Anyone observing an animal left in an excessively hot (or cold) vehicle can take action.
The Human Society suggests the following:
- Take down the car’s make, model and license-plate number,
- If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car’s owner,
- If the owner can’t be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.
Tennessee recently became the first in the U.S. to extend its Good Samaritan laws to include protection for anyone breaking a car window to rescue an animal perceived to be in danger after a period of observation.
While no such protection exists for Texans, at least one local Husky can be grateful that observant bystanders chose to take action to protect its health and well-being.
Tips if pet exposed to high temps
What to do if your pet is exposed to high temperatures from the Humane Society website:
- Look for signs of heat stress—heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.
- If your pet is overheated, move him to a cooler area and take these emergency steps:
- Gradually lower his body temperature by applying cool (not cold) water all over his body or soaking him in a cool bath.
- Place cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, in the armpits, and in the groin area. You may also wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water. Direct a fan on the wet areas to speed evaporative cooling.
- You may offer fresh, cool water if your dog is alert and wants to drink. Do not force your pet to drink.
- Take your pet immediately to a veterinarian—it could save his life. Call ahead, if possible, to be sure your veterinarian is available.