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Sonny, one of reporter Christena T. O'Brien's black Labs, loves to go for car rides. But, O'Brien leaves the 16-year-old pooch home to lounge on the couch in the air conditioning on warm days.

My black Labs love to go for car rides, but this time of year I rarely allow my pair of pooches to ride along. Unfortunately, the recent hot temperatures seem to have melted the brains of some pet owners.

I was stunned on Tuesday by the number of calls to the Eau Claire Police Department over the Memorial Day weekend from people reporting dogs left inside vehicles in parking lots.

From May 26 to May 28, the daily high ranged from 93 to 96 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

That weekend, I wouldn’t sit in my car without the air on — and I have a lot less hair than my dogs. But more than a few people opted to take their dogs along on shopping trips.

On an 85-degree day, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of your car to reach 102 degrees, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, even when the windows have been left open an inch or two.

When the temperature outside is a pleasant 70 degrees, the inside of your car may be as much as 20 degrees hotter, according to the ASPCA.

Pets left in those vehicle can overheat. Most at risk are animals that are young, elderly and overweight, those with short muzzles and those with thick or dark-colored coats, like my Labs.

Pet owners’ “first choice on a hot day (should be) to leave ‘Flossy’ home,” Eau Claire police Lt. Derek Thomas said. “However, if they decide to take ‘Flossy’ for a ride, they need to be prepared on a hot day.”

Pet owners should provide plenty of water for their pet, and their vehicle’s air conditioning should be on, he said.

Bridget Coit, one of the department’s public information officers, only takes her dogs to the grocery store or on another errand in the spring and summer months if the temperature is cool, she knows she can park in the shade and she knows she will only be gone for a few minutes.

“If I can guarantee my vehicle will stay the same temperature as outside on a cool summer day, I will take them with,” she said. “Otherwise, they are staying home.”

If a pet owner takes his or her dog along on an extended shopping trip, Thomas advised they have another person stay in the vehicle with the pet and the air conditioning on.

“Don’t treat your pets any different than you would treat yourself,” said Kyle Roder, also a department public information officer. “If you need air conditioning for yourself, your pet will also need air conditioning.”

If people see an animal in distress in a vehicle, he recommended calling police and providing a vehicle description, license plate number and observations about the animal.

Those who report the incident should be prepared to wait with the vehicle to monitor the animal and flag down an animal control officer, he said. They might also need to write a statement for the officer.

Contact: 715-830-5838,, @CTOBrien on Twitter