In high summer heat, car temperatures are lethal

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It was shocking news to hear about the Brawley woman arrested on Friday after leaving her pitbull inside her car as she did business at the El Cajon Courthouse. It was reported that she was in the courthouse for hours leaving her dog inside the vehicle in triple digit temperatures. It was 94 degrees outside, but responders reported a blazing temperature of 135 degrees inside the car. Alerted by a citizen, sheriffs broke into the car, but they were too late. The dog had died and it is pretty certain that postmortem tests will show that the dog died to prolonged exposure to intense heat.

Victoria Williams will now probably face animal cruelty charges. Although we have to use the word “allegedly leaving her dog unattended,” this appears to be a no-brainer. It was her dog, her car and as far as I can tell from reports, no other people were involved. This is a travesty and nothing short of torture. If found guilty, Williams should receive maximum sentencing and I believe we should take the law a bit further and prevent irresponsible people like this from ever owning pets again.

Although not in East County, a family lost their 3 year old on Father’s Day because everyone in the family thought the child left the car when they got home, but the eldest child realized she was missing and they found her unconscious, still buckled in the seat of her car. She never regained conscience and later died at the hospital.

Hundreds of pets die each year from heat exhaustion because they are left in a car unattended in high heat conditions. On average, 37 children die each year for the same reason. Regardless of the situation, these numbers are unacceptable and more important, avoidable.

On average, depending where your car is parked, the inside of a car can easily rise 20 degrees above the outside temperature within 30 minutes. In East County, with our extreme hot temperatures, this is a lethal combination. This is especially deadly for young children, the elderly and pets. And the larger the pet is the more dangerous as they are unable to cool down their body temperatures like humans.

This habit that people have that has to stop and there are many preventive measures to help remind even the busiest of families to double check to ensure the safety of children and pets. To avoid accidental deaths of children, ensure that your car keys are inaccessible to children so they do not get into a hot car. When driving with kids and pets, place something in the back seat that you need (wallet, purse, cell phone) which makes you open the back door so that accidental mishaps do not happen. Another reminder is to place something in the front seat next to you as a reminder. A child’s toy or a pet’s leash is a good example to remind someone that there is a child or pet in the car.

Bottom line though, especially now that the heat is on in East County is not to leave your child or pet unattended in a vehicle at all. Although I realize we are a busy society and I have been there running errands dragging my children and grandchildren in and out of the car at every stop, I can live with this nuisance.

Whether running into a convenient store, getting gas or picking one thing up at a grocery store, you never know what waits inside and how long you could possibly be inside with your child or pet unattended. Taking the extra time, and the extra steps if needed can save their lives.

As a citizen, get involved. If you see a pet or child unattended in a car, call your local emergency immediately.

People that stand by and do nothing are as negligent as the people directly involved are, and people are not perfect. Busy schedules, large families, and people in crises can easily get distracted. Though this is not an excuse, it is a fact and in these cases, along with pure negligence can be avoided if we as citizens step in. It can save a life.