Client: Internal project
Category: Activism campaign
URL: HeatKills.org

The problem

11-300x225Dogs throughout America (and the world) are suffering and dying from heatstroke, as a result of being left in hot cars. In most cases, this occurs because dog owners are unaware of the dangers of leaving them in cars, even on seemingly “cool” (eg 70 degree) days, and even if the windows are left partially open.

This public unawareness is largely the result of the fact that local authorities – police departments, shopping mall and movie theater managers, animal shelters, etc. – are also unaware of this danger. Or worse, as I documented in a recent report, they publicize dangerously incorrect medical information that, according to veterinarians, if followed, would likely make a dog in possible heatstroke worse, or kill it.

Because of this knowledge deficiency, when intelligent but uninformed people encounter a dog in a hot car, they often will leave the scene without doing anything, either because they don’t recognize the danger, or hope that the dog won’t be left there for long. Even if they do sense the danger and call the police, in many cases they are told that the local laws do not allow for a dog to be rescued from a vehicle, unless it is clearly in “distress” – meaning that it is displaying symptoms of heatstroke.

In reality, this means that the dog is already suffering the early or advanced signs of brain damage, and/or damage to other internal organs. And in many cases, it is too late to save the dog; it will die an agonizing, painful death – a death that was 100% preventable, had its owner, the general public and local law enforcement had the knowledge and ability to save it.

The solution I developed: HeatKills.org

20July14 2 little dogsSince 2012 I have been videotaping incidents of dogs being left in hot cars in Charlottesville, VA (see video of scene at right here). Although I did not have specific knowledge about why this was so dangerous, I had seen numerous news stories about dogs suffering and dying in hot cars throughout America. As a passionate dog “parent,” I suspected that what I was observing with my own eyes could lead to such a tragic outcome, if someone didn’t intervene in time.

Unfortunately, I had repeated instances with dog owners, and law enforcement and mall personnel who doubted or dismissed my concerns. Although I found lots of allegations about the dangers to dogs regarding heatstroke, few linked back to reliable scientific sources that I could check for myself. Of those that did provide credible links, both the source and reference material was often awkward and spread out in different places on the Internet. I tried but was unable to find one site that presented all this information in a way that the average person could quickly grasp, and to which I could refer when I got into any future disputes with people/authorities who harbor such misconceptions.

To fill this gap, in the hope of helping to prevent any more dogs from suffering and dying in hot cars, I designed and built a new website from the ground up: HEATKILLS.org.

One of the key features of HeatKills.org is the core infographic that shows, in simple terms, how quickly the interior temperature of a car rises, even on a “cool” day, and even with its windows partially open:
HKheatrise2I did this work in honor and loving memory of Shayna, the “miracle dog” who helped to save my life after 9/11, about whom I wrote my first book.


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