Vehicles can become death traps to pets if they're left in sweltering heat like much of the nation has experienced in recent weeks.

Vehicles can become death traps to pets if they're left in sweltering heat like much of the nation has experienced in recent weeks.

Gahanna police have issued two cruelty-to-animals citations this month after dogs were left in vehicles while one owner shopped and another dined at a local restaurant.

On July 19, a dog was left inside a car at the parking lot of Buffalo Wild Wings off Cherry Bottom Road for at least 30 minutes.

The windows of the vehicle were less than halfway down. Although the dog had water available inside the car, the temperature gauge of the reporting officer's cruiser read 96 degrees.

Gahanna police also responded to a report of animal cruelty at the StoneRidge Plaza, where a dog was left inside a vehicle for more than 40 minutes July 8, with no windows down. The vehicle was parked in direct sunlight, and the outside temperature was 83 degrees, according to the report.

Gahanna police Lt. Dan Williams said a cruelty-to-animals charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, resulting in a mandatory court appearance and a fine of up to $750. In some cases, jail time could be given.

"Temperatures in a car increase so quickly," Williams said. "I tell people, 'If you wouldn't be comfortable sitting in a car in a fur coat, they won't be either.' They will overheat.

"In this type of weather, it's entirely too hot. Even with windows all the way down, it's extremely hot."

Dr. Louis Murray, director of medicine for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), said a car could become a furnace in no time, even with the windows open. The result could be a fatal heat stroke.

Williams also cautions motorists about leaving young children unattended in vehicles. In addition to the dangers, the motorist could be charged with child endangering, which is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable with a minimum of a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.

For tips concerning extreme heat for pets and people, go to the ASPCA website at aspca.org or Franklin County Public Health's website at myfcph.org.