Dog talk with Uncle Matty: Hot cars are death traps for dogs

By From page A5 | August 23, 2013

If only every dog-in-a-hot-car story ended like this one.

Last week, former Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer became a hero all over again. But this time, it’s animal lovers and not football fans who are cheering.

On his way into a store in Norman, Okla., Switzer spotted a Rottweiler puppy sitting alone in a hot car. Windows cracked. Sun blazing. Dog panting.
Switzer waited.

The football coach and animal lover waited until the dog’s owners returned to their car, and then he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. He bought the pup on the spot and took her straight to the vet, where little Stella, as Switzer named her, was treated to a complete medical checkup, as well as a spa session.

Stella moved in with Switzer and his German shepherd, Sieger, but only temporarily. Switzer has already selected Stella’s new family — an Oklahoma couple whose home was destroyed in the Moore tornado last year. Switzer said, “I want some loving family who loves dogs and cares about dogs like I do to be able to have her.”

A lot of people think it’s OK to leave a dog in a car while they run an errand. It’s not.

Officer Robert Miller of the Bennettsville, S.C., police department received an unpaid 60-day suspension, 90 days of probation and permanent exclusion from the K-9 officer program after leaving his K-9 partner, Tank, in his police car with the engine off and the windows up last week. The 4-year-old Labrador retriever died of heat stroke.

In Woodbridge, Conn., 24-year-old Tiffany July-Lindo faces criminal charges of animal cruelty for leaving her 14-month-old Yorkie-Chihuahua mix in the car last week. When she returned to her car an hour later, her dog was dead.

In Spartanburg, S.C., also last week, police broke the window of a car in a mall parking lot in an effort to rescue a bulldog who clearly was suffering heat distress. When officers reached the dog, his tongue was purple, he began to vomit and he was too weak to drink the water they tried to give him. The bulldog died at the emergency clinic where he was taken for treatment.

“We parked in a shaded area, we cracked the windows, we were under a tree,” said Tonya Middleton, distraught about the death of her family’s bulldog, Thor. “My whole family is devastated. We love that dog like he’s one of our children, and if we ever thought that this would’ve happened, we wouldn’t have left him in the car,” said Middleton.

This summer alone, this story has repeated itself too many times all across the country: Bradenton, Fla., Bridgehampton, N.Y., Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Bloomington, Ind., Carrboro, N.C., Warwick, R.I., Round Rock, Texas, Pleasant Hill, Calif.

From pit bulls to water dogs to toy dogs … From service dogs to police dogs to beloved family dogs …

Dogs don’t sweat. They are physically ill-equipped to deal with heat. In 20 minutes, a car can heat up to 145 degrees. And your dog’s in trouble way before your car hits that temperature.

Outside and untethered, dogs deal with the heat by digging holes and seeking water and shelter. Locked in a car? Chained to a tree? Stuck in a cage? In those circumstances, dogs are wholly dependent on the timely kindness of strangers — or on the better judgment of dog owners.


Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at, and visit him at Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.

Copyright 2013 Creators Syndicate Inc. 

Matthew Margolis

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