YAKIMA — Summer officially began last week, making it a perfect time for this reminder: Leaving pets in cars could become deadly.

It could also prove costly. In Yakima, people who leave their animals in a vehicle during dangerous temperatures are subject to a $500 fine per pet.

The city of Yakima noted in a news release that hundreds of pets die each year around the country when left in vehicles during the summer months. Temperatures inside vehicles often exceed temperatures registered outside in a matter of minutes.

On an 85-degree day, leaving a pet inside a vehicle for seven minutes can expose the pet to temperatures of as high as 100 degrees. After 30 minutes, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees.

In areas such as Yakima and the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, summer temperatures often reach or exceed 100 degrees. During those days, the temperature inside a parked vehicle can climb to 140 degrees in 15 minutes.

“Time is critical,” the news release noted. “It takes just minutes for the interior of a vehicle to heat up to dangerous levels, which can result in brain damage or death for the animal.”

Cracking open the windows is not a solution; temperatures inside vehicles will still reach dangerous levels, the office noted.

Yakima officials also wanted to remind people that dogs and cats don’t sweat to release heat; they pant. The increased muscle movement increases the animals’ body heat more, so that if animals are confined to a hot area, they have no way to cool down.

The office offered the following tips for people who witness animals left in vehicles:

Record what you observe. Write down the make, model and license plate number of the vehicle and street location.

Try to locate the owner. If no owner is found, call 911 immediately and wait by the vehicle.

If a pet becomes overheated, the office recommends cooling down the animal’s core body temperature gradually.

“The animal needs to be drenched in water but not in ice or cold water, which may make the animal go into shock,” the news release said.

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