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Don't leave pets in hot cars, SPCA advises

It's illegal to break a car window even if an animal is in distress; call for help instead
It's too hot out to leave pets unattended in parked vehicles, the B.C. SPCA advises.

The ongoing heat wave affecting Prince George and most of the rest of B.C. has the provincial SPCA reminding people that leaving pets in a hot vehicle can be deadly.

“We hear it all the time, ‘I was just running into the store, I was only gone a few minutes!’ but what many people don’t understand is that even a few minutes can have fatal effects for an animal," states Eileen Drever, the B.C. SPCA's senior officer for protection and stakeholder relations, in a press release. "Not to mention, even the shortest trips can easily turn into a half an hour or more in the store while your pet suffers in the heat."

The B.C. SPCA Animal Helpline received 837 calls about animals in hot cars last year. So far in 2024, the helpline has already received 257 calls, with that number expected to rise with the temperatures.

“You might think your pet wants the company of joining you on your errands," Drever states. "Unless you know for sure you can bring them with you into the stores you plan to visit, we encourage you to leave pets at home where the temperature is more controlled, there’s more space and they have easy access to fresh water.”

If you see an animal in distress in a hot car, don't try to break in. The SPCA points out that it's illegal for members of the public to break a vehicle window, and also dangerous for both the person and the pet.

“Only RCMP, local police, and BC SPCA animal protection officers have the authority to enter a vehicle lawfully to help a pet in distress," Drever notes.

If you see a pet in a locked, hot car:

  • Take note of the license plate, vehicle colour, make and model and connect with nearby businesses to have the animal owner paged to return to their vehicle immediately.
  • If the animal is showing signs of distress (exaggerated panting or no panting at all, salivating, an anxious or staring expression, muscle tremors or lack of coordination, convulsions, vomiting, collapse), call your local animal control agency, police department or RCMP, or the BC SPCA Animal Helpline at 1-855-622-7722 as soon as possible.
  • Relay location information of the car including city and landmarks, especially if the vehicle is located in a busy parking lot, and listen to the instructions of the call takers.

The SPCA is giving residents the opportunity to receive a free “No Pets in Hot Cars” decal in the mail.