Tuesday, August 07, 2012

TOP STORY >> Animals suffer in record heat

Leader staff writer

Panting and shedding, the natural defenses of man’s best friends, aren’t enough to keep them safe while record-setting heat is plaguing Arkansas.

The high in Little Rock early last week was 111, the city’s third-highest temperature ever, according to the Weather Channel.

Temperatures rose into triple digits much of last week and into the weekend, and more 100-degree-plus weather continued this week.

Hedy Limke, director of animal services for Jacksonville, said her office has picked up at least seven dogs in the last two months which died in the owner’s backyards from exposure to the extreme temperatures.

She urges pet owners to keep dogs inside their homes or in air-conditioned garages.

“It’s just too much for them to be outside,” Limke said.

Animals should also not be left in parked cars, she emphasized.

Senior animal control officer Charlie Gullette agreed. She said that if it is 100 degrees outside, the inside of a car, even one with its windows cracked, could get to 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.

The heat causes damage to a pet’s organs, Gullette said.

She said animal control officers statewide have reported at least six heat-related deaths because dogs were tied up and couldn’t get to water.

She said if pets have to be kept outdoors, they should be left with a constant supply of water and shade where they can cool off.

In Sherwood, animals have to be tied up with a trolley cable, which stops automatically to keep it from becoming tangled, Gullette said. A rope or cable that gets tangled may cause a dog to be unable to reach its water.

She said another concern is water getting knocked over. Gullette said pet owners should set the container or bowl inside a tire or dig a hole for the bowl.

She also said a lot of people think the shade of a doghouse helps. But, Gullette explained, if the doghouse is in the sun rather than in the shade, it can trap heat like an oven.

She also suggested pet owners make cold treats for their dogs. One way to do that is to mix peanut butter with some kind of broth and freeze it like a popsicle.

Gullette encourages residents to leave out a bowl of water for stray animals and wildlife which may need it.

The Jacksonville and the Sherwood animal shelters have air-conditioned kennels and concrete floors.

Limke said the dogs are not being taken out to play. They are kept in the kennels and are allowed outside only to go to the bathroom.

The Lonoke Animal Shelter does not have air-conditioned kennels, but has been using two big fans and two smaller fans to keep the animals cool 24/7, said director Ben Kittler.

He said his office hasn’t had any problems with people’s pets or shelter animals dying or getting sick from the heat.

Kittler said animals that are stressed are more susceptible to the heat because they run around and pant more. He said owners need to keep water bowls clean because the heat could foster bacterial growth.

Cabot Animal Shelter manager Jason Ellerbee said when it gets very hot, cats and dogs at the shelter stay cool. They are kept inside with plenty of fresh water.

“We limit the amount of time the dogs are outside during the cleaning of the cages,” Ellerbee said.

The city had very few heat-related welfare calls about pets in vehicles this year, Ellerbee said.

Beebe Animal Control officer Horace Taylor said he has received only one call for an animal-welfare check at a home on Apple Street. He hasn’t had any reports of dogs left in cars.

Taylor said the animal shelter has a sprinkler system to keep the dogs cool when they go outside. Each indoor pen has a doggie door to an outside pen. The shelter also has two water coolers.

Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.