As Los Angeles attempts to reduce the “heat island effect” from black asphalt, it still behooves pet owners to avoid walking on asphalt on sunny days.
Dog people know well how much their canines love to go for a walk. Merely getting out the leash, or even saying words like “walk,” can send your pooch into a frenzy of excitement.
But if it’s on a hot day, even in the evening, a day’s worth of sunshine and high temperatures (above 80 degrees F) are intensified on black asphalt pavement. What this means is the surface temperature on those places can be as high as 140 degrees. Human skin would burn at those temperatures – it’s why we wear shoes – and the skin of a dog’s paws is just as likely to burn on those surfaces.
Search the internet for asphalt-burned dog feet and there is a gruesome array of photos available to prove this point. Raw, burned skin that can cause intense pain to a pet show it happens with frequency.
The simplest solution is to not go for walks on such surfaces. This includes the evenings, as the density of asphalt holds the heat into the night. Mornings are a better option, as the nighttime air eventually cools it off – but not entirely, particularly in a heat wave that brings day after day of hot temps and less nighttime cooling.
But of course many dogs need to (and should!) walk more than once a day. So advice from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is that the human walk the dog on grass, “wherever possible, and avoid walking in the middle of the day.”
Pavement that has tree shade will always be a better choice as well. And efforts are underway to turn black asphalt into a white surface, reducing the amount of sunlight absorption that has proven to be successful with roofs in the past 15 or so years.
Los Angeles began an experiment in 2015 with “CoolSeal,” a grey-white coating on existing asphalt, in an attempt to reduce solar heat absorption. In the five years since that experiment began, more than 50 city blocks were covered in CoolSeal and other reflective coatings, and the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti says the plan is to cover 250 line-miles with such a material by 2028.
There are some preliminary findings that indicate this is not a solid win for reducing temperatures all around. First, the reduction is only 10 to 15 degrees, which isn’t sufficient to save animals from suffering. Second, the reflected light actually raises the air temperature above and around the street, somewhat reducing its benefit. Painting the pavement white may still reduce overall heat gain in the area, but it’s a little more complicated that it may first appear.
So just as a responsible pet owner would never leave an animal in a car on a hot day, that person would also not walk his or her dog on pavement on such a day earlier. Find grass, and schedule your walks for the morning and evening, perhaps in a park where dogs are allowed.