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Denver chapter of My Dog is Cool trying to save lives of dogs left in hot cars

Leaving a dog in a hot car can be a fatal mistake.
Leaving a dog in a hot car can be a fatal mistake.
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On a warm July day in 2009, the owner of a small terrier left it in a car with the windows rolled up while his girlfriend waited in a long line to audition for "American Idol" at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. The high temperature that day was 91 and even though the dog was left in the morning, it proved too much for the animal, which died.

The owner was served with a summons for animal cruelty. Unfortunately, this tragic scene is played out regularly around the country. Normally caring owners don't realize how quickly a hot vehicle can turn into a death trap.

After the 2009 incident, Denver Animal Care and Control officials said that it takes only minutes for a pet left in a vehicle on a warm day to succumb to heatstroke and suffocation. On a 78-degree day, for example, temperatures in a car parked in the shade can exceed 90 degrees — and hit a scorching 160 degrees if parked in the sun.

Christina James Buchanan is on a mission to keep dogs alive. Buchanan is Denver chapter leader of the My Dog is Cool campaign, part of a national nonprofit that is working to educate the public about the problem.

Her chapter kicked off in the Spring of 2013 and since then has partnered with the Denver Animal Shelter, animal rescue groups like Paws & Co Adoptions and Four Paws of Colorado Pet Center, and local businesses such as Schomp Automotive, to print, distribute and post flyers, posters and bumper stickers to spread the message.

Volunteers encourage dog lovers to take the “MyDogIsCool Pledge” not to leave a dog in a hot car. They also offer advice about what to do when you see a dog left alone in a parked car.

"Colorado is famous for its 300 sunny days a year. Sadly, these sunny days aren’t great for everyone as every year many dogs die after being left inside cars while their owners shop or run other errands," Buchanan said. "These tragic deaths are entirely preventable.

"What people don’t understand is that dogs don’t sweat like we do so they overheat much more quickly than a human. This inability to cool themselves means when it is 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can climb to 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes," she added.

"Dogs can withstand a body temperature of 107 to 108 (already 7 degrees higher than their normal body temperature) for only a very short time before they experience brain and nerve damage, heart problems -- and possibly death.”

The key for Buchanan is collaboration. She's working with Denver Animal Control, whose officers are in frequent contact with animals around town. She's approaching others such as security details at sports stadiums.

Previously, Buchanan was director of a monthly caucus session of Colorado legislators interested in animal welfare issues. She has talked to lawmakers about toughening animal cruelty laws. But since owners don't intend to harm their dogs, they felt a public education campaign was the best route to take.

She added: "If you see a dog in a potentially dangerous situation in a hot car, please call your local police department,animal control agency (in Denver Metro dial 311 to report). Make a note of the vehicle license number, make model and color and location and also the time and if possible, stay with the vehicle until help arrives.

"It’s not cool to leave a dog in a hot car."

For more information, visit (www.MyDogIsCool.com). View a video showing how dogs left in hot cars are affected:(http://redrover.org/mydogiscool/how-hot-do-cars-get)

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