As the Las Vegas Valley endures its annual stretch of triple-digit temperatures, police and animal lovers share a reminder to never leave children or pets unattended in vehicles.
In the U.S., 51 children died in hot cars in 2018, the worst year on record, according to the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org. The previous high was 49 children in 2010.
Larry Hadfield of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department emphasized that one death is too many.
“It’s better off just to take your children with you inside the store because five minutes can turn into 15 minutes,” he said. “And when the temperatures gets up — even at 90 degrees — you have to amplify that for the interior of the car and having a person that cannot do anything about that could, in some cases, kill.”
Hadfield said the major concern is children who are restrained by car seats can’t get out and are unable to use a cellphone to get out of a dangerous situation. He said if you find a child in a vehicle who appears in distress, call 911.
“First and foremost, we want to make sure that we have that child’s best interests at heart and we want to get them safe,” he said. “If you see a child that is unresponsive in a vehicle, it is up to you to determine what is the best course of conduct. You have to remember that emergency responders are coming.”
Cathy Brooks, owner of The Hydrant Club in downtown Las Vegas, said for dogs, conditions can become lethal more quickly.
“Even if your car is in the shade, even if the windows are open, even if there is a breeze, the likelihood that the temperature regulation in the car is going to be enough for your dog is at or below zero,” she said. “The temperature in the car will become unbearable for your dog very quickly.
“Dogs don’t sweat. To regulate their body temperature, they have to pant. They also do it through the pads of their feet. So if they’re on a hot surface, like the dark covering of your car, and they don’t have the ability to expend the heat … they’re going to start panting. And they can’t pant fast enough to get themselves regulated. They could go into cardiac arrest.”
Brooks said she understands that people have a need for companionship with their furry friends.
“They might think they’re going out to do some errands and just think, ‘Oh, it’s no big deal. I’ll just take the dog with me. I’m just going to be inside for a few minutes.’ ” she said. “I think people’s intentions are ultimately good that they want their pets to be with them. But when you live in a place like Las Vegas … it can be dangerous.”
Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin provided the ordinance regarding animals: “No person having charge or custody of an animal, as owner or otherwise, or having dominion or control over a motor vehicle, as owner or otherwise, shall place or confine an animal or allow an animal to be placed or confined or to remain in a motor vehicle under such conditions or for such period of time as may endanger the health or well-being of such animal due to heat, cold, lack of food or drink, or such other circumstances as may be reasonably expected to cause suffering, disability or death.”
Kulin said if you find an animal in danger, call the Clark County Animal Control hotline, 702-455-7710. After hours, you can call 311, the police non-emergency number. In an emergency, call 911.
Hadfield also said the police have a no-tolerance policy for children left in vehicles.
“If you’re going to do that (with children), there’s a good chance you’re going to get arrested or face some form of criminal penalty,” he said.