Sue Harvey was walking through The Shops parking lot in Palm Desert on June 1 when she saw a dog trapped in a car. The outside temperature was 102 degrees.
On a 75-degree day, the temperature in a parked car can reach 94 degrees; when the outside temperature is 90 degrees, the inside temperature can reach 109. According to statistics released by People for the ethical treatment of animals (PETA), at least 59 animals died from heat-related causes in 2021, while another 145 were rescued from potentially fatal situations. However, these numbers come from incidents reported in the media; the actual numbers are probably much higher.
Knowing the animal’s life was in danger, Harvey called 911 and then borrowed a hammer from a passerby and smashed the car’s window.
The dog was rushed to the VCA Valley Animal Medical Center & Emergency Hospital in Indio by an animal controller and treated for heat stroke. Her temperature, measured on the spot with a rectal thermometer, was 104.9 degrees — just 1.1 degrees lower than a temperature that can be fatal or cause irreversible brain damage in dogs.
Bystanders told reporter Rebekah Reyes that the dog, an 8-year-old Pomeranian mix, had been left unattended in the Chevy Colorado for at least 45 minutes.
As a result of Harvey’s actions, PETA has honored her with a: Compassionate Action Award† She receives a framed certificate, vegan chocolate bars and a “Too Hot for Spot” sunshade for her car.
“The internal temperature of a parked car can reach deadly triple digits in just minutes, so every second counts for a dog trapped inside,” said PETA Senior Vice President Colleen O’Brien† “PETA honors Sue Harvey for saving this dog’s life and reminds us all to do whatever it takes to help vulnerable animals.”
A Riverside County sheriff’s deputy arrested the dog’s guardian on suspicion of Criminal Code 597.7 – leaving an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that could endanger the dog’s health or welfare. The woman was released at the scene and faces a charge of a felony and jail time.
The woman picked up her dog the next day after paying $1,033 in medical bills. According to Agent Reyes, she admitted she was wrong and hoped to learn from her mistake.
Harvey told PETA she would do it again if she had to, adding that she bought her own hammer to keep in her car for future emergencies.
“It is very dangerous to leave pets in cars during high temperature days,” said Erin Gettis, director of Riverside County Animal Services. “Please leave your pets at home in the air conditioning or, if you are traveling with your pet, never leave them in a car.”
PETA recommends that anyone who sees a dog in a parked car take immediate action: Note the vehicle’s color, make, model, and license plate, and have nearby businesses retrieve the car’s owner. If they can’t be found, call 911. If the authorities don’t respond, do whatever it takes to save a life. Good Samaritans who rescue animals are protected by California law from civil and criminal liability if property is damaged during a rescue.
For more information on how to keep animals safe, visitpeta.org†