Officials warn against leaving dogs in cars during hot weather

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DENVER -- The hot weather is a serious reminder about the dangers it poses to dogs.

Denver Animal Control is warning dog owners to not leave dogs in vehicles, even for a few minutes. Still, authorities said they're seeing more cases this summer.

Animal Control officers said when they respond, people almost always make excuses or say it was only a few minutes. But it takes less than 15 minutes for a dog to suffer heatstroke, brain damage and even death.

"It's heart wrenching," Denver Animal Control Sgt. Stephen Romero said.

Romero said officers have received 300 calls of dogs being left in vehicles since the beginning of April.

"We've had to do it quite a few times and it's upsetting to everyone involved," Elitch Gardens director of operations Lori Kaupp said.

Elitch Gardens has put up signs warning guests not to leave dogs in the vehicles. And still it gets notified by guests of doing just that multiple times a week.

"They will tell us and we respond within minutes because we don't have a lot of time," Kaupp said.

They immediately notify Animal Control and police. Elitch Gardens is just one of many venues where Animal Control gets calls.

"People don''t realize how fast it can go downhill for their pet," Romero said.

Animal Control has had to put down two dogs that were too far gone.

"I think that's such irresponsible pet ownership," pet owner Jaci Crist said.

Elitch Gardens and Animal Control hear people say it was only for a few minutes or they made sure it was cool.

"It's still going to get hot in there whether it's in the shade or the windows are cracked. Even if they provide water, a lot of times you'll find the dogs already underneath the seat to get away from the heat," Romero said.

And if they're lethargic, it's probably too late.

"Please leave them at home," Kaupp said. "This is not an appropriate place to leave your pet in your car in our parking lot."

Elitch Gardens said it's being pro active because it is a frustrating situation. But Animal Control said it sees it just about everywhere.

And with the heat expected to continue, it's afraid it will only get worse.