Grand Canyon is dog-friendly, but beware the heat
Car interiors can reach up to 140 degrees in under an hour
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — For travelers who don’t want to leave Fifi or Fido behind this summer vacation, Grand Canyon National Park is dog-friendly and encourages visitors to be active with their pets.
But with summer in Arizona comes high doses of heat that can be deadly to pets and children.
According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), hundreds of pets die each years because they are left in vehicles. Owners may want to run a few errands or walk to the rim to take in the Grand Canyon, but leaving animals or those susceptible to heat-related illness, even with the windows open, can be dangerous.
“On a warm, sunny day, temperatures in cars can easily reach more than 100 degrees in a very short period of time,” said Tim Whisenhunt, a law enforcement ranger with the National Park Service. “Temperatures inside the vehicle can reach 135 to 140 degrees in about 45 minutes.”
For those traveling with pets, the Grand Canyon offers options. Visitors planning on hiking below the rim, or those who want to see the sights without their dogs, can leave their animals at the park’s kennel, operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts.
The kennel cares for pets daily between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. for $22 per dog and $17.50 for cats. Pets are not permitted in most guest rooms at the park, with the exception of Yavapai Lodge, and the kennel offers overnight boarding for dogs and cats. For those staying in Williams and taking the train to the canyon, the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel also has an on-site kennel offering daily and overnight pet boarding.
Reservations are recommended, especially for overnight boarding during the busy summer season from May to September. Pet owners must be able to provide proof of vaccinations for their animals, including distemper/parvo, rabies and Bordetella for dogs and rabies, rhinotracheitis, Calici Virus, feline distemper and leukemia for cats.
For those planning on hiking trails down into the canyon or trekking into the backcountry, pets are not allowed unless they are designated service animals. Park spokeswoman Emily Davis said the main reason for this is mule traffic. Mules can become skittish or unpredictable around dogs and spook, endangering the mule, the rider and the dog. Popular trails such as Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail experience heavy mule traffic daily.
Davis said another reason dogs are not allowed below the rim is because the trails are narrow and frequently steep, and hikers or children who may be afraid of dogs do not have adequate space to avoid them.
Finally, Davis said, life below the rim is considerably more wild than that above the rim, especially the wildlife. Any encounter with wildlife could be dangerous for both dog and owner.
“If the dog comes across, say, a bobcat or a coyote, that could be dangerous,” Davis said. “The dog could chase the animal and fall or be badly injured in a fight.”
While the park and some area hotels have options for boarding pets, Davis said Grand Canyon encourages visitors to bring their dogs and be active with them.
“I think we’re one of the most dog-friendly parks in the system,” she said. “A lot of parks work hard to protect natural resources and archaeological areas, so places you can recreate with dogs can be difficult to find. Here at Grand Canyon, we allow dogs pretty much everywhere above the rim, including the campgrounds and trails.”
Leashed pets are allowed on all trails above the rim, as well as Mather Campground, Desert View Campground, Trailer Village, and all developed areas. Dogs are not allowed inside buildings unless they are designated service animals.
Following NPS’ recommendations for human hikers can help keep your dog safe in addition to your family — avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and carry plenty of fresh water for your pet. There are water filling stations located throughout the park where visitors can refill water containers. Rangers recommend resting frequently in shaded areas.
On especially hot days, the AVMA recommends walking with your dog in shaded areas or soft surfaces — surfaces such as asphalt absorb heat and can burn a dog’s foot pads quickly. If the dog will tolerate it, booties are available to protect the dog’s feet from the hot pavement.
Whisenhunt says visitors who see a dog locked in a vehicle should call 9-1-1, which will alert park dispatch to send rangers to the location. Whisenhunt says the rangers will look for signs of immediate distress and heat exhaustion, such as heavy panting or glazed eyes, and will likely use a lock jimmy kit to open the vehicle and seize the animal. The animal will be taken to the kennel and the owners will be charged for boarding fees for the day or possibly longer.
While there is no law in Arizona specifically prohibiting leaving an animal in a car, Whisenhunt says rangers can issue a citation for animal cruelty, which is a Class A misdemeanor. Visitors who leave an unattended pet in a vehicle or place their pets in danger by exposing them to unsafe conditions can be fined under the Code of Federal Regulations and/or charged under the Arizona Revised Statutes, which requires a court appearance.
Whisenhunt said rangers respond to a handful of cases each year, and most result in the animal being transported to the kennel without further complications. Visitors who see a child or elderly person in a hot car should immediately call 9-1-1, Whisenhunt said.
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