Ttraveling in a hot weather
Written by Richard Hellman
Published in Best in Show Summer 2016
This article will be released as the summer season is drawing to a close but hopefully will leave readers impressed and make them reflect on the subject of traveling with our beloved dogs in the warm months. Useless to say how torrid a vehicle can become in hot weather. We often find ourselves asking how we survived without airconditioning decades ago. A car or van can be a fatal oven for any living creature and it is shocking to reveal how many lives are lost each year due to the negligence and disregard of parents and especially of pet owners. In the USA alone, an average of 35-40 children perish each year, being left unattended in parked vehicles IN THE SHADE with WINDOWS LEFT CRACKED OPEN! It is estimated that thousands of pets die in the same circumstances a terrible death in less than one hour as their owners underestimate the severity at risk while running a quick errand.
Even on a mild day, with the vehicle parked in the shade and the windows left slightly opened, the inside temperature can rise as much as 40 degrees F. What is worse, as most of you know, a dog doesn’t sweat like humans to cool their body temperature. They can only pant and dissipate a small ammount of heat through their paw pads. Increased panting and drooling leads to respiratory failure, panic and seizure, drop in blood pressure and blood vessel dilation which causes pooling and clotting in the brain, liver, kidneys and digestive tract, organ shut down, coma and eventual death. All of this can occur in a very brief time, as little as an hour in extreme conditions. An hour or more of cruel, excruciating pain, suffering and disorientation.
Never underestimate the risks at hand and avoid leaving your dogs unattended for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time if there is any chance of them being exposed to heat. On a cloudy or even a rainy day, the sun can come out suddenly and greatly increase the outdoor temperature by several degrees in a few minutes. If you have left your dogs in a closed vehicle to run an errand, grab a qiuck bite to eat, or maybe you are in an indoor dog show and are unaware of the sudden change in the weather, it can be fatal for your dogs even in a short time.
Vehicles being used to transport dogs, need to be well insulated with aeration mechanisms. Roof fans, open windows and air conditioning are a must not only while traveling but especially when the carrier is parked. It’s not enough to be in the shade, the sun is constantly moving and in little time the automobile may be fully or partially exposed to direct sunlight. Studies have shown that slightly opened windows do little to lower the inside temperature of a parked vehicle even in the shade. While closed crates such as Vari Kennels may be fine for most of the year, better to use wire mesh open crates in the hotter months to increase the possibility of air circulation. Use individual battery operated crate fans and insist on the possibility of larger, rotating fans placed in front of the animals. This will require auxillary batteries, generators and/or external electricity sources with high quality extension cords to keep fans and A/C running but one must never rely on the fact that the dogs are out of danger as a mechanical failure or an unintentional intrusion may cause an interruption connecting the power source to the vehicle. That is why the dogs must NEVER be left unattended even in the most ideal situations for for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. Install a webcam and a device to the dashboard which will let you reveal the actual temperature of the compartment where the dogs are traveling as often commercial vans have a separating wall between the passenger cabin and the rear section. Any time you need to leave the vehicle, leave someone to supervise the dogs and take turns going to rest rooms or eating. There is a device available which can remotely warn you when the temperature rises sending you a signal even from a distance but better to always leave someone with the dogs as no device is infallible.
I’m sure many of you readers are aware of the 2 tragedies that lead to the horrific death of more than 20 dogs this past summer in Italy and the USA. These of course are neither the first nor the last to occur to show dogs under the care of Professional Handlers. Many cases go unreported, especially if occuring with a smaller ammount of deaths on the way to or on the way home from shows. Let’s not point the finger just at the handlers as many breeders and individual exhibitors are just as guilty!
Many people travel to shows on ferry boats to reach islands or to decrease road travel. Handlers or owners leaving dogs in overnight ferry garages is extremely risky as you have no possibility to check the dogs during the voyage. Some ferries allow dogs in the cabins while others have kennel facilities. Some ships have open deck parking with the possibility of letting drivers check their vehicles. Don’t be lazy or try to save money by hiding crated dogs in vans or campers as the temperatures in a closed garage can rise to extremely dangerous levels and you may have a terrible and shocking surprise when you reach your vehicle the next morning.
How can handlers and owners assure the safety of their pets while traveling to and upon destination at dog shows during the warmer season? If your vehicle is not up to par as ideally described in the previous paragraphs make the investments necessary to keep your dogs safe and comfortable. Not only is it necessary to have comfort features but it is also wise to have the vehicle regularly checked and revisioned by a mechanic to lower the risk of breakdown. It can be very unpleasant and potentially dangerous if your vehicle breaks down in the middle of no where with no shade in the middle of a hot day. Are the tires in order? a blowout on a large vehicle with a heavy load can be extremely dangerous. What happens if there is some sort of engine failure enroute? Is the vehicle insured in that case for immediate towing and substitution of another vehicle to safely bring the dogs back home or to destination?
Many American handlers should be applauded as they decided this summer to cancel their show appointments due to extremely high temperatures being forecasted. Owners should always ask to see all the safety and comfort features of their vehicle when hiring a prospective handler. If you cant afford to make such investments, whether you are a breeder, or a handler, or just a simple exhibitor, no one is putting a gun to your head and insisting you attend shows in the summer! Ask your handler how many dogs will be traveling in the vehicle and how many persons will be attending to their care? An overcrowded vehicle means less air circulation. Will someone sleep with the dogs or will they be brought into airconditioned facilities or hotel rooms? Are the dogs individually crated in sufficiently large cages with secure gates and comfortable bedding? Is clean, fresh water constantly available? How often are dogs walked and exercized in safe ex pens or on lead with safe leads, collars and flexies? How long are dogs left on grooming tables and are they left unattended? Often handlers will ask a neighboring exhibitor to keep an eye on a dog left on a table or in an ex pen, but what if they get distracted or need to unexpectedly leave the set up? Is there an assistant who is constantly watching the dogs at the setup or are dogs left alone for long periods? Even the calmest of dogs used to falling asleep on a table should never be left there unsupervised. Not only does he risk hanging himself but the table could topple over and he could panic and escape.
After the tragic occurence in Italy, many handlers had a meeting on occasion of a dog show to relaunch the idea of having an association recognized not only by the kennel club but by the state ministry to authenticate and validate professional handlers. Not only is this long and slow in coming but will eventually serve to provide better care and safety not only for the dogs and their owners but as well to the handlers.
It seemed to have gotten off to a good start but unfortunately there seems to be a lack of interest and disponibility and hopefully after the summer a new meeting will take place and things will start to progress.
After an event in Luxembourg last year concerning the precarious transport of show dogs by a young handler and one of his clients, the police intervened and confiscated the dogs found within. Although they were not risking their lives to heat stroke, they were found in an unattended vehicle with inadequate ventilation, some in insufficiently large cages, while some cages contained more than one dog. The rear doors were slightly ajar to provide air but the temperature was warming up and had passers by not heard the dogs barking which led them to call the authorities, the incident may have gone unnoticed or on the other hand tragedy could have occurred here as well.
This prompted some friends in the dog world such as Lisa Croft Elliot, Hugo Quevado and Jadranka Miatovic to try and create an FCI recognized Professional Handler’s association. Bylaws and regulations similar to those used by the PHA in the USA were submitted to FCI but it seems that the project is still at a standstill as is the European association launched by Thomas Wasteaux more recently.
I ask myself why this immediate concern and interest only after tragedy occurs and why do people and handlers lose interest so quickly? Why cant we all pull together for the good of the dogs and the good of the sport and get something done to protect the animals and the people involved?
Why no interest or support from the kennel clubs representing the FCI countries nor from the FCI itself? How many dogs will have to suffer or risk their lives before we all wake up and strive to resolve this problem!