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Dog in parked car sparks calls to police

The driver had left by the time police arrived, but they want it to be a lesson to others as things heat up

VANCOUVER — A black lab left inside a car in the parking lot of the Walmart on Mill Plain at 104th Ave this afternoon had folks on social media hot under the collar.

This image of a dog left in a car at a Vancouver Walmart sparked calls to police, and a social media firestorm. Photo courtesy Amber Thwaits/Facebook
This image of a dog left in a car at a Vancouver Walmart sparked calls to police, and a social media firestorm. Photo courtesy Amber Thwaits/Facebook

Amber Thwaits tells ClarkCountyToday.com she was shopping at the store for around 20 minutes, and came out to find the Toyota Corolla parked next to them, with its windows rolled down about an inch and the dog inside.

“He was going from the front to the back, and going from each window, like sticking his nose through it,” says Thwaits. “You could totally tell he was distressed. He was working himself up to it.”

Thwaits says they waited around the car for about 20 minutes, and finally she decided to leave a note for the driver. “‘You should try sitting in your car how you left the dog, for as long as you left the dog, and see how awful it is,'” she wrote, before adding a smiley face and sticking it under the windshield wiper.

Meanwhile she’d posted a picture of the car on her Facebook page, where friends chimed in saying she should call 3-1-1, the police non-emergency number. Another friend did so, and was told that police were already aware of the situation and on their way. Meanwhile another person had the store page the owner of the vehicle.

“Calling 9-1-1 is what you should do and then, at the same time, try to find the owner of the vehicle,” says Kim Kapp with Vancouver Police. “If you’re by a store, oftentimes the stores will page for people.”

Vancouver police posted this image to their Twitter feed after responding to calls of a dog left inside a car at a Walmart parking lot. Photo courtesy Vancouver Police/Twitter
Vancouver police posted this image to their Twitter feed after responding to calls of a dog left inside a car at a Walmart parking lot. Photo courtesy Vancouver Police/Twitter

Kapp says by the time officers arrived, the unidentified driver had already left. Still, Thwaits hopes the story reminds others that leaving a pet or a human inside a parked car can become dangerous or deadly in almost no time.

“We were sitting in our car with the doors open and we were sweating,” says Thwaits, “so I can only imagine how hot it was inside that car for the dog.”

Even in cooler weather, sunshine can quickly heat the interior of a vehicle. On a sunny 70 degree day, the interior temperature of a car can get to 90 degrees within ten minutes. At 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a vehicle can soar to 105 degrees within ten minutes, and up to 120 degrees within half an hour. That could very quickly be fatal to a pet, a child, or anyone left alone for a short amount of time. Even leaving the windows down a small amount makes almost no difference when it comes to the internal temperature of the vehicle, or the rate at which it heats up.

The question many were asking online was whether someone might be within their legal rights to break a car window in a situation like this. Oregon recently passed a law protecting citizens from liability for damage caused when they believe a life is at risk.

“Washington does not have that citizen protection,” Kapp says. “A law enforcement officer, or animal control officer, can, if necessary to protect the safety or health of an animal, (and) they are not liable for property damage that may occur.”

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About The Author

Chris Brown

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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