After numerous dog deaths on local park trails, owners taking dogs hiking in hot weather can now be cited for animal cruelty.
By Ranger Rebecca Smart, Mission Trails Regional Park
August 8, 2017 (San Diego) -- Ready to get out and hike this summer? Great! The Rangers at Mission Trails have essential hiking info to share with you.
Follow these hiking guidelines every time you, and any four-legged companions, hit the trails this Summer; and you’ll be trail Rockstars for sure.
Know before you go. Even if you’ve hiked a trail 100 times before, it’s important to always follow these steps. Know the weather and trail conditions ahead of time; if it’s going to be a warm day (and chances are that it is), hike in the earlier morning or early evening when sun is not at its peak. Temps at Mission Trails often range from 80’ – 100’ from May on through October. And most MTRP trails offer little to no shade, so if you’re hiking in the heat of the day it can be dangerous for you, and absolutely deadly for your pet.
Imagine if you had to hike Cowles Mountain in your bare feet, during mid-afternoon heat, with no shade, while wearing a fur coat, and you had no sweat glands. Would sips of water keep you safe while you climbed and climbed? No. Unfortunately this is representative of a dog’s experience on trails during warmer weather.
There have been many heatstroke deaths of dogs while hiking on trails. To be safe, DO NOT BRING DOGS ON TRAILS DURING WARMER WEATHER. Think you’re okay if you’ve got water for your dog? No, unfortunately not. Dogs are not able to regulate their body temp; they do not sweat to release heat – and are highly susceptible to heat stroke due to exposure and exercise in warmer weather. If it’s a hot day and you’re exercising your dog on trails, they are at much higher risk of heat injury or death from exposure/exertion, even with drinking water along. Not to mention that violators can be cited under CPC 597 Cruelty to Animals.
Back to human hiker guidelines. A little bit of preparation makes for terrific experiences on trails. Always bring more water than you think you’ll need, slather on that sunscreen, wear that hat, wear actual hiking shoes (we see folks falling all the time due to improper footwear), carry a phone, and bring earbuds if you listen to tunes (because audible music is not allowed). Pay attention to your body signals; if you're beginning to feel overly fatigued due to heat/exercise, stop and turn around. Otherwise we may be airlifting you off the mountain in a medi-vac (not nearly as fun as it sounds).
If you’re new to a trail, make sure to have a detailed map of what to expect. If you’re hiking alone, let someone know where/how long you’ll be out there. If you see a rattlesnake or other wildlife, well then cool; you're one of the lucky ones to witness natural habitat. Let them do their thing without harassment, and chances are they will ignore you.
If you’re unsure about trail conditions, rules, weather, critters, or have questions, you can easily find out before you hit the trail. Go online to www.mtrp.org or call our Visitor Center/Ranger Line at 619-668-3281. It’s a good idea to plug the number into your phone contacts, so it’s there if you or someone else needs it while in the park. And if you see an animal or person in distress at Mission Trails, call us.