Sunday afternoon, a trip to mail a package left me shaking as I feared for the lives of two dogs left inside a vehicle.

Julie and I had just left a store when we saw a pair of dogs inside a vehicle that had the windows cracked only slightly. We weren't leaving until we knew those dogs were safe.

After keeping a very close eye on the two for a few minutes, our concerns grew as they appeared to be in distress. One of them, specifically, looked at us and I felt he/she was saying, 'Please help me.' I headed back inside the store.

On my way back into the store, I told numerous people outside about my concerns for the animals in the vehicle, sitting in the middle of the treeless parking lot. All but one person just walked on without a word. The one person who stopped followed me inside and stood alongside me as I encountered the first store employee. I told the young man that I wasn't looking to get anybody into trouble, that I was just concerned for the dogs safety in the heat. His response was not ideal.

The young man told me there wasn't much they could do. I was incredulous and asked him if they could make an announcement. He walked away to find a manager. Another employee approached me and I repeated everything and told him another employee was finding the manager. He then walked over to a supervisor and began talking to him. In the meantime, the store manager approached me and pointed out the people that the dogs belonged to. I expressed my concerns and one of them said they wouldn't be long. I indicated my concern and tapped my heart. They said they understood. They didn't. It would take several more minutes before they would appear and finally open the doors of their vehicle to provide relief to the dogs.

While we waited, one of the workers I had talked to inside said to me, "It's not like they're going to die or something. At least it's not 100 degrees with high humidity in the middle of the day." I thought to myself, 'this is exactly the problem. People just don't get it!'

When this happened, it was 87 degrees in Cedar Rapids, with a heat index of 90 degrees. Heat Kills says when temperatures are between 80 and 100 degrees, a vehicle in direct sunlight can climb to temperatures between 130 and 172 degrees.

From Michael Dix, Medical Director of the Best Friends Animal Society: "Never leave your pet in a parked car when the outside temperature is above 70 degrees. Dogs and cats can’t sweat like humans, so they pant to lower their body temperature. If they’re inside a car, recycling very hot air, panting gives no relief, and heatstroke can happen quickly.”

Here's what PETA says you should do if you see a pet in a hot vehicle:

  • Collect info on the vehicle including the color, make, model, and license plate number. Take a photo.
  • Go inside. Find a manager. Ask for them to page the pet's owner.
  • Keep your eyes on the pets and don't leave until you know they're safe.
  • When the owner comes out, share the facts behind your concerns.
  • Call animal control. If they can't come right away, call 911.

I regret that I didn't insist on someone going back outside with me and telling them that I would gladly wait with their dogs. Next time I will.