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Dog Deaths in Ottumwa Spur Reminder of Summer Heat Dangers

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Every summer there are reminders about hot car deaths involving both children and animals, but it continues to happen. On Sunday three dogs in Ottumwa died after being locked in a hot car.

In the dog days of summer temperatures can rise in the car quickly. Even on a cloudy day in-car temperatures can easily rise to above 90 degrees.

Despite increased media coverage over the past few years, animal advocates still see pets left in hot conditions.

“This time of year I think they're responding to 5 to 10 calls a day” said Ashley Pech of the Animal Rescue League.

“I don't think people realize sometimes that on a 90-degree day your car can rise to well over 150 degrees in a very very short period of time” said Des Moines Police Spokesman Paul Parizek.

The law doesn't specifically outlaw leaving a dog in a car, or in a backyard, but it does dictate the kind of conditions they need to be in.

“You have to be safe, you have to have food, water, and shelter from whatever may come; so if you apply those same principles that you would apply to yourself to your animal, you're going to be fine” said Parizek.

Animal control officers use laser thermometers to read temperatures inside of cars before taking action. They say if you find an animal overheating, call them first with a detailed description of the location.

“We prefer folks contact us. If there’s a situation where it’s obvious that the dog or cat is panting and they’re drooling from the mouth which is another sign, and they're under extreme duress and they have to break a window...I'm not going to tell folks to do or not to do that but certainly we are all held accountable for our actions later and we will have to answer to somebody for our actions” said Chief Humane Officer James Butler.

Butler says that good Samaritan laws which cover children left in hot cars do not apply to animals.  Officers say the best thing you can do is get them on the phone, and be a good witness.

The ARL does not recommend leaving your animals outdoors in the heat even with proper shelter and water.