Dog Six Days In Car: Should Zipper The Dog Be Given Back To Owner?

By Philip Ross on April 26, 2013 4:28 PM EDT

dog locked in car six days
Zipper, a pug-beagle mix (not pictured), was locked in a car for six days without food or water. (Photo: Flickr/bossco)

A dog was found in a locked car in Seattle without food or water, and will be given back to his owner. 

Zipper, a pug-beagle mix, was discovered by security guards in an abandoned vehicle left in a shopping center parking lot in West Seattle, New York Daily News reports. The guards say it is unclear how long the dog had been trapped in the car, which had been in the parking lot for at least six days.

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"The dog appeared frightened and was shaken and appeared to be in distress," Detective Renee Witt of the Seattle Police Department told New York Daily News.

A local ABC affiliate said the dog's ribs were visible when the security guards found him. The guards gave Zipper food, and then took him to Seattle Animal Shelter workers.

According to local law enforcement, the dog had been left in the care of the owner's boyfriend while the owner was on vacation. Police are still investigating the incident, and have not yet decided to charge the man with animal cruelty or neglect -- although there's sure to be a lot of finger-wagging directed his way.

"We're going to have a conversation with this individual," Don Baxter, manager of the shelter's animal care, told New York Daily News. "[We'll] try to educate them about the proper care for the dog and let them know that it's not acceptable to leave a dog inside a car on a warm day like today."

Even if the car was abandoned days before the dog was locked inside, it doesn't take a huge amount of thermal energy to turn a car into an oven. According to the U.S. Humane Society, it only takes a few minutes for the temperature in a closed car on a warm day to reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. At a temperature that high, an animal can suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke or suffocation. Signs that a pet is at risk include heavy panting, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, vomiting, a deep red or purple tongue and glazed eyes.

Paw-rescue.org points out that unlike humans, animals are not able to sweat through their skin to keep them cool; just 15 minutes in a warm vehicle can be enough for an animal's body temperature to climb above a dog's resting temperature of 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

After being neglected for what authorities believe to be six days, should Zipper be given back to his owner?

The answer is not definitive. Only 14 states in the U.S. prohibit the leaving of a pet in a parked car, and Washington is not one of them. However, many local jurisdictions stipulate that a pet cannot be left alone in a vehicle. While Seattle will prosecute a person who leaves a pet locked in a car, the city does have strict regulations regarding animal cruelty, which it regards as a gross misdemeanor.

From the Revised Code of Washington:

A person is guilty of animal cruelty in the second degree if, under circumstances not amounting to first degree animal cruelty, the person knowingly, recklessly, or with criminal negligence inflicts unnecessary suffering or pain upon an animal.

Read more from iScience Times:

Dog Rescues Girl: 9-Year-Old In Canada Saved From Icy Waters By Labrador-Husky Named Rocky

30 Dogs Missing In Idaho: Authorities Suspect Missing Dogs Executed In 'Ritual Killing'

Toddler Mauled By 7 Dogs: Pit Bulls Kill Georgia Girl In Family Yard

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