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Mill Valley Ranks Third in Marin for Reports of Overheated Dogs in Cars

Even moderate heat can be deadly for dogs. Play it safe.

A recent incident in which a Labrador retriever was rescued from inside a stuffy car is a perfect reminder not to leave unattended pets in cars, especially during the summer.

The Marin Humane Society says a car's interior can reach 160 degrees in a few minutes, even on mildly warm days. Animals in hot cars are at risk for brain damage, heat stroke and death. It is illegal in Marin to leave a pet unattended in a vehicle on a warm day, and any law enforcement officer will use whatever means necessary to remove a pet from a vehicle if an animal is in distress.

"Luckily, we have not had any instances of dogs dying, but we’ve certainly had to break into cars to retrieve dogs in danger," said Carrie Harrington, spokeswoman for the Marin Humane Society.

Here is the breakdown, courtesy of Harrington, of emergency calls from people reporting overheated dogs in hot cars between June 1 and July 10:

  • 22 — Novato
  • 16 — San Rafael
  • 8 — Mill Valley
  • 6 — Corte Madera
  • 4 — San Anselmo
  • 4 — West Marin
  • 3 — Larkspur
  • 2 — Tiburon/Belvedere
  • 1 — Sausalito
  • 1 — Greenbrae

Mill Valley ranks third on the list, surpassed only by our much larger neighbors to the north, San Rafael and Novato. Many of the calls came from people at shopping center parking areas.

On Saturday, a Petaluma animal control officer had to pry open a locked car parked on Petaluma Boulevard after passersby reported that a large dog had been left inside for at least 30 minutes and was looking dehydrated.

“We see it frequently and just tell people, leave your dog at home,” says Andi Christman, an animal control officer who responded to the call. “It gets too hot too quickly and there isn’t enough air movement in the car, even if the window is cracked.”

A merchant brought out a bowl with water, which the Lab mix lapped up through an opening in the window. Passersby went into surrounding stores to try to find the owner, but had no luck.

That prompted Christman to pry open the car and take the dog to the shelter and leave a note for the owner, who was cited. (A first time violation can run up to $100.)

“When it’s this warm outside, things can happen,” Christman says. “Sometimes people even forget they have a dog in the car.” 


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