Operation Cool Down protecting animals from the summer heat

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Summer in Georgia means warmer temperatures. Many times, those hot days can be especially difficult for our four-legged friends.

In the summer a parked car can reach temperatures up to 140º within 30 minutes. File photo

To minimize those risks, Henry County Animal Care & Control is ramping up its patrols during Operation Cool Down. Officials have already begun scoping out parking lots in shopping centers and other businesses to keep an eye out for animals being left in hot vehicles, says Rabies Control Officer Vince Farah.

“With more than 160 days of hot weather on average, we will be out daily to ensure that pets are not left in hot cars to suffer and possibly die,” he says. “We’ve had several cases already this year, of animals being left in a hot car.”

Animal Care & Control kicked off this year’s Operation Cool Down campaign in May. During the campaign, Farah says, Animal Control will be employing Oscar, the Hot Dog mascot, to remind people not to leave their pets in hot vehicles.

“If we do find an animal in a car, we’ll enter that vehicle by any means necessary as quick as possible to render aid to the animal,” says Farah.

Violators of the ordinance may face fines up to $1,000 or 60 days in jail. Farah is quick to point out that officers from Animal Care & Control will be writing citations, and not warnings, for people who leave animals inside their vehicles.

Charges can range from either a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the severity of the case.

Farah acknowledges that sometimes pet owners leave their animals inside a vehicle for longer than they intended, by stopping to eat at a restaurant or run errands. Still, he says, those owners should not underestimate the dangers that summer can bring for their animals.

“In a 30-minute time period, the temperature can get up to 140 degrees,” he says. “If you can’t take your animal with you wherever you’re going, leave them at home.”

Farah is a supervisor with 28 years of experience working with animals in Henry County. He says rather than experiencing a dramatic change in the number of animals in hot cars, the county has seen a “steady flow” of such cases over the years.

“Some people just don’t get it,” says Farah, with frustration evident in his voice. “I really don’t understand people sometimes. You know it’s wrong, but we do it anyway. Why? It never ceases to amazes me.”

Pet owners are also advised to ensure that their animals have a constant source of clean, drinkable water at all times, as well as adequate shelter from the heat.

For more information, visit www.hcacc.org