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A 15-month-old yellow lab died Saturday in Salt Lake City after being left in a hot car for about four hours, officials said.

Officers responded about 2 p.m. to a call about an unresponsive dog in a car in a parking lot near 2100 South and 1100 East, said Salt Lake County Animal Services spokesperson Callista Pearson.

The lab was removed from the car by an animal control officer, Pearson said.

Officers took the dog to the Utah Veterinary Center, where a veterinarian pronounced the dog dead, Pearson said.

The owner told police he'd checked on the dog at 10 a.m., but hadn't been back outside until after the officers arrived. Pearson said the case was still under investigation, and would be turned over to the district attorney's office.

Pearson said there's a chance the owner could face possible felony or misdemeanor charges.

This type of incident "happens far too often," Pearson said. The agency had received three or four other phone calls about dogs in cars before noon Saturday.

Last year, Pearson said, the agency received more than 600 calls about dogs being trapped in hot cars.

"Unfortunately, that's just a fraction of the actual number," Pearson said. Those calls become "more normal for our officers than it should be."

Pearson said people don't realize that the inside of a car on a hot day can reach more than 120 degrees within minutes, and dogs who are left inside can't sweat, so their organs overheat.

A good rule of thumb, Pearson said, is that when the temperature is 70 degrees or higher, it's too hot to leave an animal in the car.

Two or three dogs died last year from being left in hot cars, Pearson said.

If a dog shows signs of distress from heat ­— heavy panting, glazed eyes, a deep red or purple tongue, vomiting or staggering — people should help gradually lower their body temperature by using cool water and wet towels and by taking them to a veterinarian, according to a news release.

Those who see a dog trapped in a hot car in distress can contact dispatch at 801-743-7045.

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