Protect Your Dog or Cat From a Hot Car

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

Chances are the first thing you do when you enter your car during the summer is turn the air conditioner on full blast. Otherwise it’s an oven!

A recent study found that 62% of dog owners say they would never leave their pets alone in a car on a warm day. That means 39% would!

Every year, too many dogs suffer and die when their owners make the mistake of leaving them in a parked car—even for “just a minute”. If the temperature outside is 78 degrees, that means the inside of the car is between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes! If the temperature is 90 degrees outside it can be a staggering 160 degrees in the car.

At these temperatures, a dog can suffer from brain damage and heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Why? Because dogs have a harder time sweating than humans because they can only sweat through their paws.


What are some of the symptoms for dogs with heat stroke?

  • Excessive panting and salivation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Staggering
  • Seizures
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Very dark urine concentrated in color
  • Vomiting
  • Dry chapped nose
  • Dark or bright red tongues and gums

States With Laws About Pets in Hot Cars
Unfortunately, there are still many states that do not acknowledge leaving a dog in a hot car is a crime or even make allowances for authorities to break through windows or doors.

On July 24, Washington will join the 16 other states in enacting a law to protect pets from being left in an unattended vehicle—whether that be excessive heat or cold, or lack of ventilation or water. Under the new law, police officers will have the authority to rescue dogs and cats from unattended vehicles and will not be liable for damages caused.

States That Prohibit Keeping Pets in Hot Cars
Prior to Washington, just 17 states have passed laws protecting dogs from being trapped in hot cars, and only 15 allow law enforcement to enter a vehicle. These states include the following:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

Currently, there are no states that grant legal permission for a concerned citizen to break a window or enter a vehicle to save a distressed animal.

However, if you see an animal locked in a hot car, please don’t walk away. Instead:

  1. Try and locate the dog’s owner by going into the stores nearby. They will usually make an announcement on a P.A. system.
  2. Call the local police and animal control and report the incident.
  3. Remain with the dog until help arrives.
  4. If the dog is in immediate danger and help has not yet arrived, you’ll have to use your own judgement, considering the possible legal ramifications of breaking and entering to save the dog.

Here is a helpful resource that not only addresses heat stroke in dogs – signs and what to do – but also all pet first aid:  The American Red Cross has a free “Pet First Aid” App you can download so it’s easily accessible in the palm of your hand: