July 18, 2013 – Every year we hear stories about children and animals that have died after being left alone in sweltering vehicles. Every spring we hope it doesn't show us its insidious face, but it returns like an inescapable and indelible memory that revolves on a not-so-merry-go-round casting sombre, skewed shadows of children's faces that died in previous years.
Whether the parent or guardian was mindless, forgetful, caught in a fatal distraction, inundated with responsibilities and details, or convinced themselves they were only going to leave their child alone for five minutes the result is the same - a child died. We ask ourselves the same questions year after year. Why did this happen? How could this happen? I search for logic but none can be found.
We deftly seek out preventative measures - anything and everything - no matter how trite or atomic because if it has the remotest chance in becoming a defining thread that makes a difference - we will state it. I allow myself to sound like a broken record with the sole possibility of reaching you. I want every parent and guardian on this earth to "get it" and the message is this – never, never, never leave your children unattended - no matter what the circumstance. There are no 'ifs', 'ands' or 'buts' in this story. There is no room for error.
This article is dedicated to all those wonderful people who have their eyes and ears open – rescuing our children from a dreadful demise. YOU know who you are. You stand guard for those little people that cannot defend themselves and somehow through your periphery you catch a glimpse of their face or hear their cry and come to their rescue. These children are left alone in precarious positions and it is only through your attentiveness, kindness and humanitarian efforts that they are alive today. On behalf of everyone at Children's Health and Safety Association, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We need you to know that you are our heroes and we will forever be grateful.
On June 26th, 2013, two-year-old Maximus Huyskens was found dead inside a family member's vehicle that was parked just outside the garage of a home in Milton, Ontario.
On June 28th, police arrived at a commercial plaza parking lot after receiving a call from a concerned citizen about a little girl left in a vehicle. Officers were able to pry open a car window, unlock the door and free the child. The mother was charged and arrested with child abandonment for locking her toddler alone in a parked car in Toronto.
On July 2nd , 2013 police were called to a shopping mall in south Edmonton after passersby noticed three children aged six, three and 23 months inside a vehicle. Emergency services arrived on scene and removed the children from the car in good health. The mother was charged with three counts of wilfully causing a child to be in need of intervention.
On July 3rd, 2013, three-year-old Tsitsi Chitekedza from Edmonton, Alberta died after being abandoned in a vehicle outside the family's townhouse while the outside temperature soared to 43C.
On July 16th, while the Greater Toronto Area was under a heat advisory, a father left his 9-month-old daughter alone in a parked car in Oakville, Ontario and shopped at Home Depot. Concerned passersby found the girl sweating profusely and crying and they stated that she was alone in the vehicle for at least 10 to 15 minutes. When the father returned to his vehicle he was berated by an angry crowd of witnesses and rightfully so.
In the United States, 24 children have died this year (to date) after suffering heat strokes while left unattended in vehicles, according to statistics from the Department of Geosciences at San Francisco State University. The university reports an average of 37 heat-stroke-related deaths in children in vehicles annually.
Security Guards on the Alert for Pets
Security guards at Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre are on the alert for pets in vehicles at all entrances. “If you have a small pet, you can bring it inside the mall, but if it is large, you can’t leave it behind,” a mall security guard told a driver as he entered the mall.
Stephen Gascoine, General Manager for Vaughan Mills stated, "The death of the dog last year pushed us to act proactively." "Security guards can monitor the vehicle if they have concerns about a pet left in a car with closed circuit television (CCTV) or mobile patrols, and take steps if they think they have a dangerous situation."
"While there have been no pet fatalities at the mall this spring or summer, staff and emergency services have been forced to open up vehicles to provide relief to pets at least 10 times," said Marketing Director Jamie MacLean.
In 2012, a Chocolate Labrador died in the backseat of a parked car at Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre in Ontario after a passerby spotted the dog in distress and notified mall security. Fire crew broke open the back-left window but were unable to resuscitate the dog. A 21-year-old man and 20-year-old woman were both charged with causing unnecessary suffering to animals under the Criminal Code.
The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states that a dog’s normal body temperature is about 39C and they can only stand being 41C for a short time before irreparable brain damage or death occurs. Dogs release heat slowly through panting because they do not have pores. Five minutes in a vehicle under the blazing sun would be too much for most pets. While opening a window and a bowl of water can help, the safest and kindest thing you can do for your animal is to leave it at home.
To all the department stores that have integrated safety measures by airing messages over their intercom systems about the dangers of leaving children and animals unattended in cars, we thank you….we thank you…we…