Hot Weather Car Safety for Dogs: Just Leave Them Home
By Dorothy Wills-Raftery
It seems like a logical thing: it’s a warm (not even hot) day out and you want to take your dog along for a ride in the car while you do a few errands or grab a quick bite to eat. You park in a shady spot, crack your windows, and/or leave the car locked with the air conditioning on, because you think you will be keeping your dog comfortable, and you plan on being inside for “just a minute.”
However, there are unforeseen or unexpected delays that can happen—and have happened—and during it all, your dog is literally roasting in the vehicle. Let’s run through some scenarios:
1. While you are in the store or restaurant (even a fast food one), it is more crowded than you thought; the check-out line is long, or the cash register isn’t working. Any number of unforeseen things can occur. Now, your “quick minute” becomes 15, 20, or even 30 minutes.
2. You think your dog is fine because you parked in the shade and left the air conditioner running, but your car’s air conditioner malfunctions, or stops working. Now your car, within a few minutes, can become a hot box.
3. You get into a fender-bender in the parking lot or on the way home. Your car can’t run, meaning the a/c cannot work. You have to exchange driver info and wait for the police to arrive, which depending on their emergencies may take time. Once they do arrive, you need to wait for the report and/or ticket to be written up. Meanwhile, your car is sitting there, in the heat. Even in the shade, it does not protect your dog. Not only is your dog stressed from the accident, but now in harm’s way from the quickly rising temperature in the car.
Leaving your dog in the car on a warm or hot day can be downright dangerous and even fatal. Depending on the day and temperature, a dog can experience overheating, heatstroke, seizures, suffocation, brain damage, and even death in just a short amount of time.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “The temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes, and almost 30º F in 20 minutes. The longer you wait, the higher it goes. At one hour, your vehicle's inside temperature can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Even on a 70-degree day, that's 110 degrees inside your vehicle!”
States the AVMA, “Your vehicle can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet at risk of serious illness and even death, even on a day that doesn't seem hot to you. And cracking the windows makes no difference.”
Leaving a dog in a hot car, states PETA: “It’s like being baked alive. Heatstroke can happen in just minutes, even with the car’s windows partially rolled down. And opening a window slightly won’t help—parking in the shade or leaving water in the vehicle won’t prevent your dog from overheating, either.”
Is it Illegal to Leave a Dog Unattended in a Parked Car?
According to a 2023 Animal Legal & Historical Center at Michigan State University citation, “The answer to this question, of course, depends on in the state in which you live. Actually, 31 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.”
What Can I Do to Help Rescue a Dog From a Hot Vehicle?
According to The Humane Society of the United States:
Take down the car's make, model, and license plate number.
If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car's owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.
If the owner can't be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control, and wait by the car for them to arrive. In several states, Good Samaritans can legally remove animals from cars under certain circumstances, so be sure to know the laws in your area and follow any steps required.
“States with such laws typically allow rescue of the animal from the vehicle,” also states the Animal Legal & Historical Center at Michigan State University. “This may involve forcibly entering the motor vehicle to remove the trapped animal. Some states limit their ‘rescue’ laws to law enforcement, firefighters, animal control, first responders, or authorized humane officers. Recently, about 14 states have enacted laws that allow any person to rescue a distressed animal.”
For more important tips on what to do when rescuing a dog from a hot car, and first aid, please visit the Human Society’s printable flyer.
It’s important for not only adults, but also children to understand the dangers of a pet being left in a hot car. The national non-profit animal welfare organization RedRover® kids’ magazine, Kind News, has a FREE downloadable elementary-level Teaching Guide and PowerPoint presentation on, “The Dangers of Dogs in Hot Cars.” This guide covers the topic of how dangerous it is for dogs to be in a parked car on a warm day even with windows cracked while “applying concepts in physics, biology, and mathematics to a real-life problem that occurs in virtually every community.”
Bottom line: During the warm and hot months, please leave your dog home, where it is safe and cool. Both of you will be happy you did.
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Dorothy Wills-Raftery is an award-winning photojournalist and author. Her canine books include EPIC Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy; the FiveSibes™ Tales children’s books: What’s Wrong With Gibson? Learning About K-9 Epilepsy and Getting Healthy With Harley; and Buddy, the Christmas Husky~Based On A True Holiday Miracle (ArcticHouse Publishing). Her internationally top blogsite is FiveSibes™ , based on her five Siberian Huskies, and includes an online encyclopedia for the Siberian Husky breed.
Her work has also appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul & Rosie the Riveter book series, Woman’s World Magazine, AmericanPet Magazine, American Dog Media, Ruff Drafts, The Sled Dogger, and Hudson Valley Paw Print Magazine. Dorothy has been awarded the prestigious Maxwell Medallion by the Dog Writers of America Association for “Excellence” for her writing, photography, and fiction. Her book EPIc Dog Tales: Heartfelt Stories About Amazing Dogs Living & Loving Life With Canine Epilepsy received the Independent Press Award for “Excellence” in the Reference Book category and the NYC Big Book Award for “Excellence” in the Animal/Pet book category. She was named “Best Author” by Hudson Valley Magazine and all four of her books were named “Best in Print” by AmericanPet Magazine.
An official International Purple Day® for (K9) Epilepsy Ambassador since 2012 and a volunteer case manager for The Wally Foundation-Canine Epilepsy, Dorothy partnered with the nonprofit Purple Day® Every Day presented by The Anita Kaufmann Foundation for her #Paws4Purple initiative, and she created the #FiveSibes #LiveGibStrong K9 Epilepsy Online Resource Library—all inspired by her epileptic Siberian Husky, Gibson, in order to help other Epi-dog families find accurate information to help their Epi-dogs.
You can follow Dorothy and her FiveSibes stories on the FiveSibes™ blog and on Facebook at FiveSibes: Siberian Husky K9 News & Reviews, and on Twitter and Instagram (@FiveSibesMom).