Child’s Rescue in Walmart Parking Lot Prompts Call for Warning Signs

As Temperatures Soar, PETA Asks Company to Help by Alerting Customers That Heatstroke Can Strike in Only Minutes Inside a Hot Car

For Immediate Release:
June 6, 2019

Contact:
Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Atlanta – Today, PETA sent an urgent letter calling on Walmart to help prevent tragedy and loss of life by installing signs in its parking lots reminding customers of the danger of leaving any vulnerable living being alone in a hot car. The appeal follows news that a 2-year-old child was rescued from a car parked at a Walmart in McDonough on the hottest day of the year so far—one of seven reported near-death cases nationally that have been reported since May. In the past five years, nearly 60 dogs and children combined have been found left unattended in cars in Walmart parking lots on hot days—and at least eight dogs and two children have died as a result. 

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—points out that signs can be crucial reminders that in summer, a parked car can be a death trap for dogs and children, who can’t escape as temperatures climb and their bodies shut down. “PETA wants Walmart to take a simple step to help prevent the otherwise inevitable consequence: agonizing deaths of dogs or children in hot cars outside its stores this summer,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk.

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PETA’s letter to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon follows.

June 6, 2019

Doug McMillon

President and CEO

Walmart

Dear Mr. McMillon,

Will Walmart please help prevent the deaths of children and dogs left in hot cars, something that is happening in your parking lots with heartbreaking regularity? The number of fatalities is deeply upsetting, and they are all preventable. Please, won’t you take one simple action to prevent lethal mistakes by posting signs in your parking lots advising visitors against leaving any living, feeling beings inside unattended vehicles? In the past five years, nearly 60 dogs and children have been left unattended in cars in Walmart parking lots on hot days, and at least eight dogs and two children died as a result. 

Just since May, tragedy has been averted in at least seven Walmart parking lots:

  • A child was rescued from a car on the hottest day of the year in Atlanta.
  • Three dogs were locked in a car that registered 105 degrees in Fort Myers, Florida.
  • A child was left in a hot car in Seneca, South Carolina.
  • A “heavily” panting dog was rescued from a hot car in Spartanburg, South Carolina, after being trapped for at least 20 minutes.
  • A 5-year-old boy was found drenched with sweat and was treated for heat exhaustion after he had been left in a car in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.
  • A dog was left unattended in Virginia Beach, Virginia, as temperatures reached the 80s.
  • A woman left her dog in a hot car for nearly an hour in Avon, Ohio.

Luckily, these individuals were all rescued in time, but that will not always be the case.

Already this year, 10 children have died in hot cars. Since 2018, at least 64 animals have died from heat-related causes. This number includes only those incidents reported in the media—so the actual figure is almost certainly higher. It doesn’t take long for parked vehicles to turn into deadly ovens: On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a car can soar to 100 degrees in just a few minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes. Leaving the windows partially open or parking in the shade won’t keep vehicles cool enough to be safe.

Heatstroke, damage to organs (including the brain), and death can occur extremely quickly, so it’s crucial that neither children nor dogs ever be left in parked cars—even for “just a minute.” Dogs are highly susceptible to heatstroke because they can’t sweat and can cool themselves only through panting. Please watch this short video about these life-threatening dangers. I am sure it will move you.

By posting warning signs in lots or on entry doors or stenciling on parking spaces, Walmart can provide customers with a vital reminder that it takes only minutes for a dog or a child to die from heatstroke. We also hope you’ll change your policy and permit employees to make announcements calling for an unattended child or dog’s guardian to return to their vehicle in the case of a problem. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid E. Newkirk

President

For Media: Contact PETA's
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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind