Summer is here—it’s a great time to take your dog to a pet-friendly beach or on your family vacation, but as pets hit the road, they are sometimes left in hot cars leading to suffering and even death. We have all faced the temptation to do a quick errand with our pet in the car thinking it will “just be a minute.” But the truth is, that minute can quickly lead to ten if the checkout line is long or you run into an old friend—but ten minutes might be all it takes, and depending on your state, you could face legal consequences.
Is it illegal to leave your dog in a parked car?
As of 2019, 31 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protections from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a car. Each state is different—to understand the laws in your state, visit this link https://aldf.org/project/an-avoidable-tragedy-dogs-in-hot-cars/
What can happen?
Every year dogs, and cats, suffer brain damage or even die from heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes. On a pleasant, 78-degree summer day, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 100-120 degrees in just minutes. On hotter days, the temperatures in cars soar even more quickly. Recent studies show that cracking the windows makes little difference.
See something, do something.
So, what should you do when you see a dog trapped in a parked car on a sizzling summer day? In the states with “hot car” laws, concerned bystanders are allowed to break a window open to free the pet only if you have good reason to believe the pet is in danger; you have checked that the car is locked and there are no other means of entry; you call 911 or local law enforcement to let them know what you are about to do; and finally, you have to wait for the police or owner to arrive before leaving the scene.
If you don’t live in a state with “hot car” laws, then what? If you see a dog left alone in a hot car, take down the car’s color, model, make, and license plate number. Have the owner paged in the nearest buildings, or call local humane authorities or police. Have someone keep an eye on the dog and don’t leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
The bottom line…
Leaving pets unattended in hot cars is serious business and our nation’s lawmakers are responding with appropriate measures. We can also take this issue seriously by leaving our pets at home, even if they think they want to come with us, and by looking out for pets in dangerous situations. Let’s make it a safe summer for pets!