What to Do If You See a Dog Locked in a Car
We love our furry family members and we want to take them everywhere. But it's dangerous under any circumstances to leave a dog in a car, even in temperatures that seem cool to humans. According to the ASPCA, when outdoor temperatures reach 85 degrees Fahrenheit, a car can heat up to 100 degrees or more in just 10 minutes, and 120 degrees in a half hour. Even on a 70-degree day, a car interior can rise more than 20 degrees in 20 minutes. And don't count on shade, cracked windows or a bowl of water to cool your bestie, they're not enough.
How often do we see dogs left alone in a parking lot? While owners may think, "it's only ten minutes, what's the harm?" dogs are wearing a permanent fur coat and rely on panting, not sweating, to release heat. In higher temps enormous energy must be expended to keep cool. As respiration rates soar, so do heart rates, putting our furry friends at risk of seizure, stroke and harm to vital organs as oxygen levels in the blood decrease.
What to do
If you see a dog locked in a car showing signs of distress—panting, drooling, agitation, torpor, vomiting—time is of the essence. If you can't locate the owner quickly, call 911. It is illegal in more than half of US states to leave an animal locked in a car in dangerous conditions. Be sure to stay on the scene and be ready with the details: a concise address, condition of the dog and the car's license number. You can take photos of the dog at the scene and note names of witnesses.
Only in some states is it considered legal to intervene by breaking into a car. But unless you know the law, you risk being charged with a crime.
The best rule is prevention
The best rule is to never leave your dog unattended in a car under any circumstances. Even a ten-minute errand can easily turn into a half hour if we meet a friend or can't find what we're looking for. Remember, just as a car heats up instantaneously in summer, it cools down just as quickly in winter, meaning animals are at risk of hypothermia, even in temperatures as high as 50 degrees.
The rule: no season is a safe season to leave a dog in a car.