By Jamie Leary

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – With the hot summer sun finally drying off popular hiking trails, first responders say the calls for hikers needing help increases, but those calls also increase for pets.

“Summertime is always our busy time as the heat increases so do the calls…” said Matt Clark, Animal Control Officer with Jefferson County.

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Clark says especially when it comes to dogs. Many owners don’t realize, how hot is too hot?

“Dogs, much like people, they need to be conditioned. We had a late winter. It lasted seemingly into June, you know? You have a dog that’s been home all winter because it’s been cold, they need to be conditioned to be out on the trails just like we do.”

(credit: CBS)

Clark is prepared for just about any situation. He showed CBS4 a few of the tools he uses. He keeps gloves in his truck for wild birds or feral cats. He keeps chip scanners, treats, leashes… the list goes on.

“On any given day, any of this stuff is of use. I carry a pack with first aid any time I have to hike in anywhere.”

So far this summer, he has already logged some miles. Over the weekend, Clark found himself on back-to-back dog rescues.

On Friday, Clark was called to the Beaver Brook trailhead. He said he hiked more than three hours to help carry 110 pound dog to safety. The dog’s owners took a wrong turn and the dog ended up injuring its feet on sharp rocks. It couldn’t walk and its owners called for help.

(credit: Jefferson County)

The second incident occurred Saturday in Morrison at Matthews/Winters Park.

“The dog was about a mile up in Matthews/Winters and had collapsed from heat exhaustion.”

It took agencies from Lakewood Police, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office as well as Jefferson County Open Space to get the dog stable and down.

They used a stretcher and said eventually, the dog was okay, even happy.

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“He was, once he figured out that we were there to help him, and that it wasn’t going to hurt him, he was along for the ride,” chuckled Clark.

Clark says he assesses each situation and calls this one, an unfortunate accident. There will be no citation.

“She did have water for herself. Water for her dog, but these happen really fast and that’s why we stress the importance of hiking first thing in the morning or the evening if you’re going take your dog with you.”

He says it can happen to even the most responsible of dog owners. With variable terrain and weather in Colorado, people need to be especially in tune with their dog’s needs.

“It’s important to note dogs don’t sweat like people do so it’s a lot easier for them to overheat. We sweat to cool ourselves off, you know? They can’t do that.”

If you are ever in a situation where your dog is overheating, Clark says there are ways to cool them down.

(credit: CBS)

“It’s important that you apply water to the dogs paws, ears-  ya know, sensitive areas of the dogs body. It helps really bring the body temperature down. Seek shade if you can. That also helps bring down their body temp.”

Clark says in both situations, he decided not to issue a fine. That’s not always the case. Clark says he bases those decisions off of the dog owners prior record, their intentions along with a number of other factors.

In the case of the dog with heat exhaustion, Clark says, “she tried to do what was best for her dog at the time, these things do happen we understand no one is perfect so in this case she was not cited for the incident.”

Jefferson County Open Space recently posted a video with helpful information on how to keep pets cool this summer. It also has more safety tips as well as resources for pet owners on its website.

Jamie Leary

  1. Robert Chase says:

    There are so many people not responsible enough to own a pet that they are wandering out onto trails. When a pet is rescued, its owner should face a competency hearing.

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