KINGSPORT — It’s common knowledge that you can call 911 when you see someone in distress. But do you know that 911 is for animals, too?
A Pomeranian tied outside a Kingsport residence with no access to water or protection from the sun died from heat exhaustion Thursday while concerned citizens waited for the animal shelter to open.
Kingsport Police Department Code Enforcement Officer Melanie Adkins and Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Julie Canter are hoping to prevent future animal deaths by advising the public that they can in fact call 911, and are indeed encouraged to do so, to report an animal that appears to be in distress. Canter further advised that if an officer does not immediately respond to a 911 call to check on a possibly distressed animal, the public may also call the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office for assistance at 279-3278.
“We can prevent this type of thing as a community if we work together,” said Canter.
Adkins and Canter said there were witnesses who described having seen the Pomeranian in distress before its demise, but those people did not realize they could call 911 to report their concerns. They advised they were waiting for the animal shelter to open, Adkins said. On Thursdays, the Kingsport animal shelter opens at 12:30 p.m.
Adkins advised police will respond when a dog or cat is left in a situation that endangers its welfare, as it is a crime to leave a pet in such conditions. At this time of year, she said the concern is for pets that are left outside with no access to shade or shelter, water or food.
The Pomeranian was examined Dr. Kate Zimmerman, a veterinarian with Tri-County Veterinary Hospital in Bluff City, who determined the dog had succumbed to heat exhaustion.
Zimmerman declined to discuss the details of the case Monday, but she was willing to talk about heat exhaustion and the steps pet owners can take to protect their pets.
Zimmerman advised that pets with long, thick coats and pets with heart conditions or short snouts are at an increased risk of overheating. She said long, thick coats — which are designed for cold climates — should be shaved short in the hot summer months, and those who own pets with heart conditions or short snouts should consult their veterinarian to determine what extra precautions may be necessary to protect their pets.
The difficulty with heat exhaustion is that by the time the pet is in obvious distress, it’s probably too late to save them, Zimmerman advised. She described panting as the earliest sign of heat exhaustion, followed by dementia, as heatstroke causes neurological problems.
“If you don’t see water, call 911,” said Zimmerman.
For pets that constantly tip over their water bowls, Zimmerman said there’s a tip-proof water bowl that is a little more expensive, but will stop all but the most determined tippers. Zimmerman also suggested homeowners with chain link fencing can fasten a bucket to the fence with a carabiner.
She also advised that a doghouse is not sufficient shelter from the sun. She said that although some types of doghouses stay cooler than others, a doghouse that is sitting out in the sun can get as hot as the inside of a car. For that reason, all doghouses need to be placed in shade, she said. In the absence of shade trees, Zimmerman recommended a tarp.
If a pet must be tied outside, it should be on an overhead zip line instead of a tie-out cable. She said the zip lines allow animals freedom of movement without the possibility of entanglement, while tie-out cables can become wrapped around the pet or other obstacles in the yard, causing the line to become so short that the animal is unable to reach water and shelter that has been supplied.
In the case of the Pomeranian, Adkins said the dog is believed to have been tied out in the sun without shelter or water for at least an hour.
Zimmerman also said pets should never be left in a car, even with the windows rolled all the way down, if the temperature outside the car exceeds 70 degrees.