It was a blistering 98 degrees inside the car—too hot for the panting, cowering dog Eagan police found shut inside the vehicle.
A concerned passerby had alerted officers to the pet, which was left unattended in a car parked along O'Leary Lane in Eagan earlier this month, according to Eagan police reports. Police eventually removed the animal from the car—and issued a ticket to the dog's owner under a Minnesota law that prohibits people from leaving pets unattended in vehicles in a way that endangers the animal's safety.
It's a scene that Eagan Animal Control Officer Karen Grimm sees occasionally during the summer months, when direct sunlight and higher temperatures convert parked cars into sweltering ovens where temperatures can rise 20 degrees or more in 10 minutes. Already this year, officers have issued three unattended animal citations in Eagan, Grimm said.
When Eagan police receive a call about a pet left in a hot vehicle, they first evaluate the condition of the animal in question, Grimm said. An unusually inactive animal that is panting heavily may be distressed, at which point police or animal control officers will measure the internal temperature of the vehicle and try to find the animal's owner, Grimm said. If they cannot locate the owner, officers will remove the animal from the vehicle.
If necessary, officers will also administer first aid to an animal suffering from heat distress. First aid includes ice packs and fan systems, Grimm said. In serious cases, officers are instructed to take the animal to a veterinarian, Grimm added.
It can take just minutes for animals to go into heat distress when left inside a hot vehicle, according to Owner Dr. Jennifer Yip.
In earlier stages of heat distress, dogs will pant, drool and act nervous, Yip said. But in later stages, they become inactive and will lay on their side. If unchecked, heat distress can result in kidney failure, multi-organ failure or other longterm damage, Yip said.
Yip recommends soaking the paws and belly of an overheated animal in cool water, or fanning the animal.
Refrain from leaving your animal in the car on warm days. Not even cracking the car windows is an effective way to reduce the heat inside the vehicle, Yip said.
“Just a few minutes can cause serious heat inside your car and cause serious problems," Yip said. "There isn’t a safe a amount of time to leave them in the car."