Leaving Pets and Kids in the Car: Should the Law Do More?

According to one organization, a child can die from heat stroke on a 72-degree day if left unattended in a car.

Each summer, the same old story comes up—irresponsible parents and pet owners leaving their children or pets in the car during times of extreme heat.

The result can be devestating.

According to the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University, more than 500 children have died because of being left in a hot car since 1998—11 have been reported thus far in 2012. Most of the time, parents or pet owners tragically forget about their kids or pets. But the incident rarely finds sympathy amongst the public.

According to SafeKids.org, a child can die from heat stroke on a 72-degree day. That's because their bodies aren’t the same as adults and a child’s body can heat up five times faster than an adult’s.

And according to the Weather Channel, humid cars interfere with animals' ability to rid themselves of excess body heat. Most animals don't have the ability to sweat and cool themselves the way people do.

According to a MSNBC article, 19 states, including Missouri, have laws that address leaving a child unattended in a vehicle.

What do you think? Should the law be more stiff when it comes to parents or pet owners leaving children or pets in a car during a hot day? Or is the law working as is?

stacey July 15, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I enjoyed your article especially w/me being an Early Education Major, and having young children of my own. I do believe the laws need to be enforced more than what i've seen/heard/read.etc. I hate hearing these horrible stories every year about kids, and pets too. I have NO understanding of how one can leave their child in a car, forgetting them! Even when I don't have my kids, i recheck the car to make sure doors are locked, didnt leave anyting imp inside, etc. I also believe the PUBLIC have a bigger role to play in these issues. Many people have walked by a car with a child or animal inside, knowing it's not right, but talk themselves out of calling the police. Some don't care at all, and some DO call police. I can say I have called before, and that I will continue to do so. Parent's are a child's #1 advocate, but unfortunately some children aren't lucky enough to have parent's who take this role on. That leaves thier safety up to law enforcement, the PUBLIC, and DFS who I could write about all day. LOng story short, if you see a child (especially a baby or very young child) or and animal left in a car you should call 911. It IS your business becuase children can NOT defend themselves, or tell right from wrong! Same with pets. Laws do need to be taken more seriously, and maybe even REINTERATED to the public more often! You should also write an article on the law for this in MO. Thanks.
Gary K Lee July 15, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I think educating the public is the most important thing. If the laws prosecute the parents after the child has already died, it's too late for the child. If people are educated so that it's known as a big no-no and people are educated to call for help when they see a child or pet locked in a car, then lives can be saved. Publicity, like this article, helps.
Joseph D. Tuerff July 15, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Laws are necessary but won't solve the issue. First, a little history: On a summer day in 2008 in Phoenix, I saw - yet another - news segment about a child had been accidentally left in a hot car. I decided right then and there I would devote myself to bringing an end to these tragedies. In the 4 years I have examined the issue, the confluence of three factors increase the “modern-day” risk of forgetting a child in a car that all parents and caregivers must guard themselves against. These factors are: 1) the airbag technology requiring small children to be put in back out of the driver’s line of sight; 2) the increased amount of time parents spend driving kids around; and 3) last but not least, the distraction-filled lives we live today! This “modern-day” risk strikes without warning, usually around a change in caregiver routine – but not always. If you don’t think it can happen to you, the data proves you are mistaken. Some of the most responsible and caring people in our society have accidentally left a child in a car and now must live with the horrific consequences of that mistake every moment of every day since. As over half of the child hyperthermia deaths in cars are accidental, most of these tragedies can be eliminated if parents and caregivers will take steps to reduce the risk. Learn more about the issue and see one solution at www.sbtsafety.com .
stacey July 15, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Wow, those are amazing facts as well. I do believe it does and can happen accidentally, and every time it does all involved want it to be accidental of course as well. Another idea, to add to the great one's above is to make the publicity reach the big car makers. Such as in recent times, we did not have cars that continued to beep until your seatbelt is on, or must have an airbag, etc. This would not solve the problem right away or completely but if made a big enough issue maybe they could make all future car's alarms/keys continue to beep if someone or something is left inside the vehicle when departing. I know technology isn't my strong point and would need a lot of smart, dedicated people to make/deliver such a thing, but I believe it could happen.
mormit July 16, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Stacey. You are on to a good idea but my concern would be that people would get used to this to remind them that the kids, pet, or their leftovers from lunch were left in the car. As soon as one of those systems failed and a child died, the parent who forgot the kid would sue. For myself, I am a bit manic on this issue. Before driving off, I look back and either count heads or I have been known to touch each kid by the ankle and count....."1, 2". Couldn't live with myself if something were to happen and the kids can consider dad as neurotic but that is the way it is.
Denise Bertacchi July 16, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Mormit, I have to agree. People need to take responsibility for their actions. Though 500 kids dying in hot cars over the last 13 years is very sad, the CDC reports that an average of 390 kids die IN POOLS EVERY YEAR. Should we outlaw pools? The world is a dangerous place-people need to use their common sense. Also, if you follow the link on the car death stats, you'll see that half the kids were forgotten in a car but 30 percent were playing in a parked car. 17 percent were left in a car on purpose.
Ray Antonacci July 16, 2012 at 01:14 PM
As a paramedic I have been on that call trying to revive twin girls left in the car by their grandparents who forgot they were with them. Even if the law carried the death sentence it would not change the fact that these folks just forgot. I'm sure capital punishment would have been a relief for them and their guilt.
Antona Brent Smith July 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Brian (and Owen) I agree that leaving children in hot cars is very dangerous. I agree that there should be more education and articles about the dangers of leaving children in the car. What I disagree about is using stock photos of little black babies to illustrate your point. Kirkwood is majority white. Why would you use a stock photo of a little black baby in such a negative connotation (implied neglectful parents?) I would expect more from The Patch, an online publication I have supported and followed since the beginning, even before you were purchased by AOL. I am disappointed by this type of pandering. Antona Brent Smith
Denise Bertacchi July 16, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Antona, Patch doesn't use stock photos, we use our own and sometimes PR photos when we need to. The photographer on that photo is Roland Sprewell, a Patch writer in California who has worked as a fire fighter, paramedic, fire inspector, and media relations guy for his fire department. He did an article on car seat safety where this photo was first used. I wouldn't be surprised if that cute kid was Roland's own child. I'm sure that when Brian was looking through Patch's archives he was only looking for a cute photo of a kid in a car seat. And that is a cute photo.
Scott Simon July 19, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Then write a cut line for the photo crediting who produced it.
Denise Bertacchi July 19, 2012 at 01:45 AM
The way Patch is formatted right now, the cutlines only show up when you click the photos. Its there.


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