Keeping outdoor pets safe during extreme heat

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Cullman County Animal Control shares tips on keeping outdoor pets safe during summer heat. (Cullman County Animal Shelter)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Summer is in full swing and the temps are climbing daily. While many people may be retreating indoors to beat the heat with central air conditioning or hitting one of the many recreational water play spots around town to cool off, those with four paws and fur sometimes don’t have that luxury.

Cullman County Animal Control (CCAC) Director Rodney Banister shared some tips and facts about keeping animals safe and healthy during a heatwave or the extreme temperatures that Alabama is known to have during summer.

Most domesticated animals and pets are born with biological avenues such as panting and releasing body heat through paw pads and noses to cool off when experiencing extreme heat, but that exposure should never be prolonged. Animals, especially double coated or those with a long coat, can overheat easily, quickly turning a situation dire.

“We would like for people to closely watch their pets during the hot summer days,” said Banister. “They need to provide plenty of water and shade for their outside pets.”

A shaded spot can be anywhere to offer the animal respite from the blazing sun – a  covered patio, a fenced enclosure with a sun cover, a tarp or a large tree in the yard all suffice for shady shelter. Doghouses aren’t a great option, according to the ASPCA, as the plastic or wood enclosed space can trap heat and create a greenhouse effect, similar to being shut inside a parked car.

Banister said summer is when CCAC receives the most calls about animals left unattended in parked cars.

“We highly recommend that you don’t bring your pets with you and leave them in your unattended car,” he cautioned. “On an 85-degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car with the windows opened slightly can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, the temperature will reach 120 degrees.”

A pet can quickly suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke or suffocation in a matter of minutes when exposed to extreme heat and given no way to cool down.

According to the Code of Alabama, “A person commits the crime of cruelty to a dog or cat in the second degree if he or she, in a cruel manner, overloads, overdrives, deprives of necessary sustenance or shelter, unnecessarily or cruelly beats, injuries, mutilates, or causes the same to be done. Cruelty to a dog or cat in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.”

“Code of Alabama 13A-11-241 states you must provide proper shelter and sustenance. We recognize sustenance as fresh water,” said Banister.

Owners should always know the symptoms and signs of heat stroke in animals. Those signs can be anything from excessive drooling, increased breathing rate, confusion and, in extreme and severe cases, seizures and vomiting. If an animal is exhibiting signs of a heat stroke, seek veterinary attention immediately. If an animal has been observed without proper shelter and water, notify CCAC at 256-734-5448.

Banister shared, “If anyone wants a welfare check done on animals they can call Animal Control and make a complaint.”

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