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Animal rights advocates take to stencils to keep dogs out of hot cars

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Some dog walkers and owners in The City are hoping a new campaign to stencil reminders on parking spaces for pet owners not to leave animals unattended in cars will help curb situations of pets being stuck in parked cars on hot days.

On the heels of an incident earlier this month in which dog walker Pamela Uberti was cited after eight dogs were reportedly found in her van parked at Stonestown Galleria Mall, animal-rights group PETA is fast-tracking a plan to stencil reminders for pet owners on the asphalt of shopping area parking spaces, said Stephanie Jaffa, the group’s special projects coordinator.

So far, the Diamond Heights Shopping Center and a pet store in Danville have taken PETA up on the offer, Jaffa said.

“Every year PETA receives more and more reports all over the country” of guardians leaving animals unattended in cars, according to Jaffa.

“Dogs can’t regulate their body temperatures as well as humans,” Jaffa said, adding that even with a window cracked, the temperature inside a parked car can climb to more than 100 degrees. “They can sustain heatstroke and die in a matter of minutes in these kinds of conditions.”

Uberti was cited June 13 after an Animal Care and Control officer responded to reports of dogs in a vehicle with no windows open. Several people gathered at the scene in dismay and the officer was preparing to break a window in the van before Uberti returned and let the dogs out, all of whom survived.

Nancy Stafford, co-director of the San Francisco Professional Dog Walkers Association that helped craft the permit required to walk four or more dogs in The City for compensation, said Uberti’s situation is rare.

“I can’t think of any other walker who was cited for something like this,” Stafford said.

Many of the roughly 125 dog walkers in the association were disappointed to learn of the Stonestown incident, according to Stafford.

“It was upsetting for most of us,” Stafford said.

Stafford said she would support placing reminders for pet owners on parking spaces.

“It’s not bad to remind people,” she said. “People aren’t thinking. They don’t realize how fast it can get hot.”

Tom Lucas, 56, who once called the police when he spotted a dog left unattended in a car parked in Noe Valley, agreed that the stencils could be beneficial.

“People are distracted by cellphones — anything we can do to remind people to make sure that they don’t leave behind precious cargo,” said Lucas, who has a rescue dog.

But Lucas’ partner David York, 49, does not believe the initiative will make a difference.

“If you’re so distracted that you don’t see the dog in the car, will you see a sign?,” York asked.

PETA will send the “Too Hot for Spot” stencil, which will take up about a third of the space of a parking spot, to the Diamond Heights Shopping Center within the next week, according to Jaffa.

Officials with the Diamond Heights Shopping Center could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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