After recent death of a dog in Rifle, Aspen police warn of unattended pets and overheated vehicles |

After recent death of a dog in Rifle, Aspen police warn of unattended pets and overheated vehicles

The dogs of The Aspen Times pose for the camera at Wagner Park on Friday morning. Dogs from left to right, Jake, Murphy, Molly, and Maya.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Reports of dogs in hot cars in Aspen

2015: 10

2016: 16

2017: 12

2018: 15

2019: 1

Total: 54

Source: Aspen Police Department

With the news of a dog dying in a hot car in Rifle two weeks ago, Aspen police have it on their radar to keep an eye on pet owners who leave their animals locked up outside.

While there has only been one complaint this year of a dog in a hot car, it’s been a frequent occurrence in the past, said Ginna Gordon, community response supervisor for the Aspen Police Department.

“I’m actually surprised there’s only one this year,” she said after researching statistics since 2015.

Since that year, the APD has responded to a total of 54 calls of dogs in hot cars, with 2016 as the highest year with 16 complaints and last year, with 15.

In that same time frame, the APD has only had to enter a vehicle once to remove multiple dogs from overheating. They were impounded and the owner had to pay a fee to retrieve them, according to Gordon.

The officer was able to gain entry without force, but could have broken the window based on a state law passed in 2017 when it was made legal for anyone to break into a car in order to save a child, dog or cat.

It doesn’t take long for a car to heat up to deadly temperatures for a dog, regardless if it’s parked in the shade and the windows are open.

“It really heats up fast in a car,” Gordon said. “If it’s 80 degrees it will be over 100 degrees in 10 minutes.”

A dog’s normal temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees, according to a July 4 post on the Rifle Police Department Facebook page shortly after the death of the dog the weekend prior.

When a dog’s temperature reaches 105.8 degrees, permanent brain damage begins to occur, and the critical temperature when multiple organ failure and impending death occurs is around 107 to 109 degrees.

Rifle has signs with temperature references posted in its downtown warning people not to leave pets in the car.

Steamboat Springs goes a step further, and has an ordinance that makes it illegal to keep dogs or cats unattended inside vehicles when the outside temperature is at or above 70 degrees. Violators could be charged with animal cruelty and lose ownership of their pet.

Krista Amatuzio, an animal control officer in Steamboat, said they rarely cite people but use the law as an educational tool.

“It allows us to get in the vehicle or take the temperature in the car,” she said. “It’s really helpful for us to be able to take action to remove an animal from the vehicle.”

Amatuzio added that the threshold of 70 degrees allows for animal control officers to make contact with pet owners more frequently.

Officers hand out cards that show how quickly temperatures can rise and the ramifications.

Gordon said APD has considered introducing a similar ordinance for Aspen City Council to pass.

She added that there is no reason for a dog to be left unattended in a vehicle.

“Take them out with you, or leave them at home because your dog is going to be a lot happier,” Gordon said. “It’s really sad to hear about the dog in Rifle because it can be prevented.”