Santa Monica Place (file photo)



Special to the Daily Press


“Hot cars” have become a pressing issue this summer.

Over 40 dogs and 30 children nationwide have died from heatstroke after being left inside sweltering vehicles, and the numbers are rising with each heatwave.

Macerich, a Santa Monica-based real-estate company and owner of the Santa Monica Place, has stepped in to pass on an important message about the problem to shoppers through the company’s media platforms.

The outreach followed a persuasive appeal from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to have Macerich join the “Hot Cars Kill” movement and the company has used their commercial advantage to spread awareness at malls across the country.

The ads display on digital signs and remind drivers how quickly temperatures can rise to dangerous levels.

PETA has been following the issue – what they call “hot cars kill” – closely this summer. They have been posted updates, tweets, and other notifications on their media platforms, informing viewers how easily and accidentally a person could make a deadly mistake by leaving an animal or child in a hot car, especially in parking lots. They said they were looking to reach out further and find a way to make the issue even more heard and Macerich was an appealing option for a number of reasons.

The company is one of the largest retail real-estate owners and operators in the country. In addition, they have historically taken other steps for animals with PETA resonated; they do not allow wild animal exhibits or circuses at their facilities, they prohibit the sale of “sugar-gliders,” which are nocturnal animals in need of very specific care, they committed not to work with Sea World, and they do not allow pet stores in their facilities. PETA saw similarities and possibilities for cooperation, reached out, and soon they were working on this campaign.

“This summer alone, PETA has mourned dozens of dogs and children who have baked to death after being left alone in parked cars,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Macerich’s essential warning ads will no doubt save lives by reminding shoppers that hot cars can become death traps within minutes.”

PETA’s corporate affairs department strives to work cooperatively with companies, mostly behind the scenes. They value their longstanding relationship with Macerich, and worked directly with executives at Macerich to create a series of digital ads with reminders about the possibly deadly effects of hot cars, which are currently being broadcasted at dozens of malls owned by Macerich.

“We started the initiative with Macerich via email, and set up a phone call,” explained PETA’s corporate liaison Stephanie Shaw. “When they learned that animals and children can succumb to heatstroke in just minutes when they’re left in a parked car, even on a warm day, even in the shade, even with the windows cracked, we were very excited and not surprised to see that Macerich was very willing to step up to try to help prevent 2017 from becoming a record year for deaths from heatstroke, by running a public service announcement.”

PETA said people do not realize the dangers of leaving children and dogs in cars for even as little time as it takes to run a quick errand. Stephanie explained how PETA is grateful that Macerich has decided to portray these potentially life-saving images and messages in their malls, bringing awareness to shoppers.

PETA also wants to emphasize the importance of speaking up when something does not seem right. They encourage anyone who sees a child or animal trapped in a parked car to take the car’s license plate and model, to have the owner paged over an intercom if it is in a store or mall parking lot, to make sure someone is standing by the vehicle to keep watch while help is found, and to even call law enforcement if necessary.

PETA said that on a 90-degree day, interior temperatures can soar to as high as 119 degrees in 20 minutes. Dogs and children trapped inside parked cars can succumb to heatstroke within minutes, even if a car isn’t parked in direct sunlight. Dogs showing signs of heatstroke should be taken into the shade, given water to drink, cooled down with damp towels placed on their heads and chests, or immersed in tepid (not ice-cold) water. A veterinarian should be called immediately.

“We are thrilled by Macerich’s decision, and we are certain that this will inspire even more companies to post signs to warn drivers not to leave anyone unattended,” Shaw said.