As Janeé Boswell, animal control supervisor for the Boulder Police Department, approached a car in the parking lot of the Twenty Ninth Street mall around noon on Thursday, it was a slightly overcast, 82-degree day.
But for the yellow Labrador retriever inside the white hatchback, it was a much different story.
"The vehicle's inside temperature is about 102 degrees at this point," Boswell said, pointing to the reading from a tool she used to take the temperature inside the car. "He's definitely panting, and he doesn't have any water."
As summer rolls on, Boulder police have seen an increase in dog owners leaving their pets in their cars, prompting the department to launch a public awareness campaign to remind people that the inside of a hot car is no place for a dog.
Boswell said police already have fielded more than 300 "hot dog" calls this year, which have resulted in 62 warnings and about 20 tickets.
"We thought, 'What can we do to proactively prevent this problem?'" Boswell said. "We really thought this was an opportunity to reach out to the public."
So police have begun placing signs around Boulder that warn owners about the dangers of leaving their animals in hot cars. The signs -- which read, "Your vehicle is an oven. Don't let your dog cook!" -- list information about how being left inside hot cars can hurt dogs as well as a number to call for anyone who does see an animal left in a vehicle.
When those calls do come in, police track down the animals' owners as officers remain to monitor the dogs.
"We get these calls all over town," said Chris Reich, a Boulder animal control officer. "And very rarely is it actually one of those cases where they were gone for two minutes. It really is sad."
As for the yellow Lab in the parking lot, Boswell and Reich used the car's license plates to identify the owner and attempted to call him. As Boswell continued to take temperature readings, she documented the dog and the temperature readings with a camera.
"It's for our case and to show the owners," she said. "It's so we can show them, 'This is how hot it was and this is what your dog looked like.'"
The windows in the car were cracked about three inches, but the temperature still continued to rise as Boswell spent about 30 minutes trying to find the owner.
Boulder police only are allowed to break into cars if dogs are in imminent danger, and while the dog inside the car at Twenty Ninth Street was hot, it hadn't reached that point yet. So far this summer, police have not needed to break into any cars to rescue dogs.
The owner of the dog finally returned, and Reich and Boswell instructed him to start the car and give the dog a bowl of water. Reich told the dog's owner that the temperature inside the car was about 111 degrees.
Reich said in most cases, owners aren't aware of how much their dogs can suffer while being left alone in a car.
"Most of the owners are very apologetic," Reich said.
At Twenty Ninth Street on Thursday, the owner -- who declined to identify himself or comment -- was ticketed for subjecting a dog to unnecessary suffering, a charge that carries a maximum $999 fine and up to 90 days in jail. He also was cited for improper caring for animals, since the dog did not have any water available.
A recent change to Boulder city ordinance now allows officers to ticket owners whose dogs are exhibiting any signs of hyperthermia. The ordinance previously allowed police to ticket owners only if their dogs were in "life-threatening" situations due to heat or cold.
In addition, any confined or tethered animal must be provided clean water at all times. The previous ordinance only required owners to provide animals access to water in "sufficient quantity."
"The ordinance changes have helped a little bit," Boswell said. "Because we have needed to do some enforcement."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.