As temperatures start to soar in summer, we will undoubtedly hear more horror stories of dogs locked in hot cars. The risk of heatstroke and even death in these cases is very real, therefore, it is important to know which steps to take if you encounter a neglected pooch in an overheated vehicle.
Temperatures in cars can skyrocket in the summer, even if the vehicle is parked in a wooded area or the windows are open. Studies show that if it’s 70 degrees outside, inside a car, temperatures can reach 116 degrees in less than an hour. According to PETA, "Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting."
If you happen to see a dog trapped in a car on a hot day, experts recommend taking the following actions if you suspect their life may be in danger:
Check for Heatstroke
Heatstroke, which occurs when a dog is unable to reduce its body temperature, is manifested by heavy panting, excessive drooling, vomiting, drowsiness or passing out. If you encounter a dog under these conditions, seek help immediately by calling 911. When you contact the police, explain the condition of the dog and provide them with the vehicle’s license plate number. It is also useful if you can take photos or a video of the scene, and get the name of any witnesses.
Unfortunately, if you choose to take further action, such as breaking into the car, you risk being charged with breaking and entering.
Other Steps to Take
To ensure you act appropriately, it is important to know the laws in your state and town regarding leaving pets in hot cars. Some states have Good Samaritan laws that protect citizens who aid pets in distress.
Also, the Humane Society of the United States provides “hot car flyers” that address the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars. They can be ordered in bulk from animalsheltering.org and distributed in your neighborhood. Additionally, you can ask local store managers, shopping centers, restaurants and other businesses to inform customers that they shouldn’t leave their pets in hot cars while dining or shopping.
Finally, if your town or state doesn't have a law that prohibits abandoning pets in parked cars, you can contact your representative or attend a town hall meeting to lobby for one.