AUGUSTA, Ga. – Augusta’s Animal Services Department is keeping a watchful eye on pets to help prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths. Heat poses an extreme danger. Statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that approximately 700 humans and countless animals nationwide fall victim each year to heat-related illnesses.
Many canine deaths are the result of owners locking their dogs in a parked car or confined in an area without adequate shade. It is unlawful to confine an animal in a parked vehicle or other enclosed space in Augusta for a period of five minutes or more if the outdoor temperature rises above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Many dog owners fail to realize that the temperature inside a parked car rises quickly and very dramatically,” said Crystal Eskola, (title) with Animal Services. “In fact, a pet can become overheated if kept outside in an area exposed to direct sunlight without the ability to escape to a cooler, shaded area. As the sun moves across the sky, the shaded area also moves. The animal must be able to find shade and have access to water.”
Augusta Ordinance 4-1-35 states that it is against the law to confine an animal in such a manner that could endanger the animal’s health. If an officer witnesses a situation in violation of the ordinance, the officer can use whatever means are reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle and remove the animal, and obtain any necessary veterinary care – at the owner’s expense. Animal Services officers often rely on infrared thermometer guns to help determine whether the temperature inside a vehicle has become dangerous.
Eskola says pet ownership includes proper care of the animal and accepting responsibility for violating the ordinance.
“Violating this local ordinance is a misdemeanor,” she said. “It is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail.”
If you see an animal confined in violation of the local ordinance, please call 911 for assistance.
Note to editors and reporters: Augusta offers cooling shelters for residents. Information on available shelters can be found at https://www.augustaga.gov/Facilities?clear=False. Be aware of medical conditions that can result from extreme heat. Heat exhaustion symptoms are heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and clammy skin, a weak pulse, and possible fainting and vomiting. If you experience heat exhaustion, stop all outdoor activity and move to a cooler place. Drink cool water or a sports drink. If your symptoms don’t improve within one hour, seek medical attention. Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature reaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Symptoms include hot dry skin, rapid breathing, racing pulse, and possible unconsciousness. Seek medical attention immediately.