Dangers of leaving children and pets in the car

Published 7:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2018

While running errands, it can be tempting to leave a pet or child in the car for what may seem to be a short time while going to a store. But, as temperatures continue to rise, even if the errand is only expected to take a few minutes, leaving a child or pet unattended in a hot vehicle can lead to serious consequences such as injury or death.

Pearl River County Chief Sheriff Deputy Shane Tucker said to never leave a child or pet in a vehicle. He said that when he worked in Hattiesburg, he dealt with several cases involving a child who died of heatstroke from being left in a vehicle. While he has not heard of similar cases happening in Pearl River County since he started with the Sheriff’s Department a decade ago, he stressed that injury or death is always a possible outcome when leaving children unattended in vehicles.

Tucker said that the temperatures inside a vehicle can quickly rise to dangerous levels. He added that leaving a child or pet in a vehicle isn’t an issue just because of the heat, it’s also an safety issue. Even if the parent leaves the child in a vehicle with the air-conditioning running, that would make it easy for someone to steal it with the child still inside since the key would be in the ignition. He said this could happen even if the thief doesn’t realize that they are not alone in the vehicle.

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“Desperate people do desperate things,” Tucker said.

Tucker said, if such a call was made to the Sheriff’s Department, every step would be taken to ensure that child or animal’s safety. He said they would breach the windows or do anything else to get into a locked vehicle to save a child or animal from harm. Within the city limits of Picayune, there have been instances where the Picayune Police Department was forced to rescue children and pets, according to previous coverage.

According to an article by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, since 1998 approximately 750 children have died from vehicular heatstroke. So far in 2018, 18 have died.

“Outside of crashes, heatstroke is the number one vehicle-related killer of children in the United States,” the article states.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation’s website, hundreds of pets die each year from being left in vehicles.

“Your vehicle can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet at risk of serious illness and even death, even on a day that doesn’t seem hot to you. And cracking the windows makes no difference,” the website states.

If the temperature outside of a car is 70 degrees, within 10 minutes that temperature can jump by nearly 20 degrees and in less than an hour can reach up to 115 degrees, the website states. In summer temperatures, that number can easily climb to levels that could seriously injure or kill an animal or child.

Tucker said children and pets left in cars are also at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if left in a running vehicle for long periods. While most of these deaths occur when a vehicle is left in a garage or other enclosed space for too long, the same can also happen if a vehicle has a defective exhaust system, the article states.