Close call with heat-stressed dog prompts Toronto man to create high tech warning collar

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

We're hearing fairly regularly about dogs being rescued from oven-hot vehicles, such as the Kingston, Ont., man charged for leaving his pooch to bake in 33-degree heat in a Toronto store parking lot in June.

Now a Toronto advertising executive has come up with a high tech gadget that lets owners know if their dogs are in trouble.

Aaron Starkman, a partner in Rethink, came up with the idea when he inadvertently left his golden retriever Hefty in the car for what he thought would be only a two-minute shopping stop.

[ Related: Pet owners reminded not to leave animals in cars ]

It was raining at the time but checkout lines were long and by the time Starkman emerged 20 minutes later, the sun was shining and Hefty was struggling with the heat.

"I almost was one of those awful people you read about," Starkman told the Toronto Star. "Nobody knows it's just a matter of minutes."

So Starkman and members of his Rethink team came up with a prototype dog collar that texts the owner's cellphone if temperatures are heading into dangerous levels.

The "Dog Caller" is made from a phone SIM card, a thermistor (a type of temperature-sensitive resistor), some LEDs and a coded chip. It's essentially a cellphone with no keypad or screen, the Star explained.

The device would alert owners when the temperature passes 26 degrees C, whether that's in a stuffy car or sweltering apartment, the Star said.

Rethink plans to crowd-fund the Dog Caller's development and hopes to begin offering it sometime next year for about $20.

Starkman stressed that the high-tech collar is not meant to give dog owners a licence to leave their pooches in their vehicle.

"We never ever under any circumstance want anyone leaving a dog in a car," Starkman told the Star, but "if the collar does end up saving a dog in a car, we'll obviously be thrilled in that result."

Meanwhile, Rethink, in conjunction with the Toronto Humane Society, has created a a web campaign for "Doggy Havens," dog-friendly stores where dogs can lounge in air-conditioned comfort on hot days.

[ Related: Dog freed from car walks onto busy highway ]

The B.C. SPCA's web site offers tips on keeping pets cool and what symptoms to watch for when they're stressed by the heat.