Dog Hot Car Laws + What You Should Do If You See A Dog Left In A Hot Car

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As rational adults who just happen to be dog owners, we all know that you should never leave your dog inside the car on a hot day. Right?

However, people still do it. (Even dog “experts” make mistakes and use poor judgment sometimes too.)

So, from one dog owner to another, please don’t leave your dog in the car on a warm day — even if the windows are rolled down. It’s animal abuse.

Leaving your dog in the car during the summer (even when it doesn’t seem all that hot to you) is similar to putting your dog inside of an oven! Seriously. The temperatures heat up so quickly that your dog becomes completely helpless when trapped inside the car on a hot day.

Believe it or not, leaving the windows partially open is NOT enough. Parking in the shade WON’T keep the car cool enough either.

Dogs feel heat differently than humans do. They sweat differently too. Dogs sweat by panting and by sweating from their paws. However, a dog trapped in a hot car cannot effectively rid its body of enough of the heat by panting and sweating — simply because there’s not enough cool, fresh air to replace the heated, stale air. Therefore, a dog breathing in warm/hot air for too long will suffer heatstroke …and could die.

In simple terms, heatstroke occurs when a dog loses its natural ability to regulate its body temperature. Dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies the way humans do. Canine body temperature is primarily regulated through respiration (i.e., panting). If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, heatstroke can occur. Source

In a matter of just a few minutes, a dog can be overcome by the heat. It’s no joke. Temperatures in a closed automobile will rise approximately:

  • 19 degrees in 10 minutes
  • 29 degrees in 20 minutes
  • 34 degrees in 30 minutes
  • 43 degrees in an hour

The Animal Protection Institute (API) conducted their own study that showed that deadly temperatures can quickly build inside a closed vehicle, even with moderately warm temperatures outside. The study found that even at 9 a.m. with an outside temperature of 82 degrees, the closed automobile registered 109 degrees inside … The API’s study also measured vehicles with cracked windows. With 4 windows cracked, an 88-degree day outside turned into a 103-degree sauna inside the vehicle at 10 a.m.  Source

Just like kids trapped in a hot vehicle, dogs simply cannot withstand those high temperatures when confined in a small, enclosed space.


My Experience With A Dog In A Hot Car

While grocery shopping on a summer day when the temperatures were in the high 80’s, a woman pulled into the parking spot next to the one I was leaving.

I noticed she had a full-grown German Shepherd in the back seat. The car windows were up, and the air conditioning was on inside her tiny 4-door vehicle as she pulled into the parking space.

Then, I noticed that she began cracking the windows (barely 1 inch each) and started walking into the store. I immediately stopped her in her tracks and said, “It’s too hot for him inside the car like that!”

She looked embarrassed and said to me, “I know, but I’ve just got to run in and get some spray cleaner real quick.” She glanced around, as if to indicate that she had no other option, then she hurried into the store. I just stared in amazement. I certainly didn’t want to leave the dog alone like that!

My first thought: “Why did you have to bring the dog when it was so unbearably hot outside today, knowing that you were going to be leaving him in a hot car with the windows mostly rolled up?”

I honestly did not know what to do. I hesitated on calling 911 because I feared that:

  • They wouldn’t respond. (I didn’t know the laws regarding dogs left in hot cars in my state. More on that in a minute!)
  • They wouldn’t take me seriously. (They always say don’t make calls to 911 that could jeopardize others from getting the help they deserve. Instead, you’re supposed to call the non-emergency number — which, by the way, I never stored in my cell phone… until now!)
  • They would arrive after the lady had already returned and drove away. (Thus, a wasted call to 911, resulting in a lot of energy and manpower spent responding to a non-event.)

I should have offered to stay with her dog — with the windows rolled way down and me there to make sure he didn’t escape. Or, I could have walked him outside on a leash or something. But then there are all the trust issues that arise with someone whom you don’t know being in charge of your dog.

Instead (and I admit I feel terribly guilty that I didn’t immediately choose one of the 2 options mentioned above), I parked my car nearby and watched and waited for the lady to return. My plan was to call 911 if the dog started to show signs of distress or if the dog’s owner took too long to return.

Fortunately, she returned within about 6 minutes with the single item that she had purchased. (Those seemed like the longest 6 minutes of my life. Just imagine how it felt for the dog!) The lady definitely was in a hurry to get back to her car, where she quickly proceeded to roll down the windows and turn on the air conditioning to let the dog breathe in some fresh air.

If nothing else, I hope that I was able to plant a seed in this lady’s mind that it’s not okay to leave your dog trapped in a hot car. Hopefully, she won’t want to be “embarrassed” like that again, so she’ll choose to leave her dog at home instead the next time.

Still, I was left questioning my own actions. And feel terrible to this day that I allowed that dog to be left in a hot vehicle for even 6 minutes.

My situation was very similar to this one:

It happens more often than you probably realize.

Need proof? Just read all of these comments!


What To Do If You See A Dog In A Hot Car

The reason I’m writing this post today is to possibly help someone else who might find themselves in the same situation that I was in — as a witness to a dog left in a hot car.

  • You don’t want to make a scene (though the dog’s life is certainly worth it).
  • You don’t want to get the person in serious trouble (just a little trouble… enough that they’ll learn a lesson and never do it again).

Still, it’s up to those of us who see these things to look out for dogs when their owners simply don’t take the time to think about what could happen if their dog remains inside a hot car for too long. (In case you’re wondering, irreversible brain damage and kidney failure could occur… even death!)

Save a life by speaking up! If you do come across a pet alone in a car on one of those hot summer months please alert the store manager. If the owner does not return promptly, call your local animal shelter or the police ASAP. Let’s protect our furry friends this summer.  Source

Here’s what you should do if you see a dog in a hot car, plus even more advice from the Humane Society of the United States.

You may also want to distribute flyers in your neighborhood or leave them on dog owners’ windshields:

  • PETA, the largest animal rights organization in the world, has a supply of leaflets reminding drivers to leave their dogs at home when it’s hot outside.
  • My Dog Is Cool, an organization devoted to helping people save dogs from dying in hot cars, has a number of different signs, posters, and fliers.
  • Animal Legal Defense Fund, which fights to protect the lives of animals, has a car windshield sunshade that reminds everyone parked around you to do the right thing if they see a dog in a hot car.


Dog Hot Car Laws

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To be honest, it’s a little difficult to find out whether it’s technically illegal or not to leave a dog in alone in a vehicle in different states.

There are 5 different sources for animal laws in most states:

  • Federal statutes
  • Regulations from federal agencies
  • State law
  • County law
  • City law

Not to mention the fact that the laws in your city could actually conflict with the state laws regarding dogs.

So, which laws should you follow?

The question implicates the issue of preemption:  whether a lower local law is “trumped” by a higher state law.  If the two laws do not conflict, there is not a problem and both laws must be followed.  If, however, the lower law tries to regulate something the higher state law already regulates, then the lower law has been preempted.  State laws usually give great deference or authority to local units to regulate dogs.  But laws that deal with complex and far-reaching issues such as rabies quarantines and dangerous dogs may be exclusively up to the state to regulate.  The local government may be able to help you sort out the conflict in laws.  If following the lower law has led to further problems for you or if you feel following the local law may contradict the state law, consult an attorney.  An argument of preemption may help to invalidate a local law that stretches the municipality’s authority to regulate.  Source

Start here to find dog hot car laws in your state:

Obviously, I realize that there’s no way that a dog being left in a hot car would ever be viewed as the right thing to do. But still… it would be nice if animal cruelty laws were clearer and more readily available to everyday citizens. Not only would this benefit current dog owners (and future ones), it would also aid those who happen to witness a dog being left in a hot vehicle. I think people would be more inclined to speak up if they knew they had the law on their side.

UPDATE: Where I live in Tennessee, a law was recently passed to protect dogs left in hot cars. In 2014, the “Good Samaritan Law” took effect, allowing people to break into a car if they see a child trapped inside a hot car. Starting July 1, 2015, that law also includes animals.


What About A Dog In The Car With The Air Conditioning Running?

Many people do this, but tragedy can strike — and it has. For example, in 2003, a police dog in Texas died after the air-conditioning in the patrol car shut down and began blowing hot air. The air system’s compressor kicked off because the engine got too hot. Many cars, including modern models with computerized functions, are prone to the same problem. In August 2004, a North Carolina couple lost two of their beloved dogs, and nearly lost their third dogs, as result of a similar failure. They had left bowls of water and ice in the car, and the air-conditioning on, during their shopping trip of less than 30 minutes. Source

Finally, check out this video by veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward as he puts a hot car to the test:

Here’s more proof that dogs die in hot cars — even with temperatures in the 70s!

UPDATE: You never know when you might have to break into your own car… like Carrie Underwood did when her dog locked the car doors on a hot day with her baby inside!

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I like to help Dog Parents find unique ways to do things that will save time & money -- so I write about "outside the box" Dog Tips and Dog Hacks that most wouldn't think of. I’m a lifelong dog owner -- currently have 2 mixed breed Golden Aussies that we found abandoned on the side of the road as puppies. I've always trained my own dogs and help friends train theirs, as well. Professionally, I worked at a vet and have several friends who are veterinarians -- whom I consult with regularly. (And just because I love animals so much, I also worked at a Zoo for awhile!) I've been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started... and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). My daily motivation is to help first-time dog owners be better prepared from the first day your new puppy enters your home. I like to help dog owners understand what's 'normal' and what you can expect in terms of living with and training your dog -- how to get through the ups & downs of potty training, chewing, teaching commands, getting your dog to listen, and everything else that takes place during that hectic first year! When I'm not training, walking, grooming, or making homemade treats for my dogs, you will find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I've written over 600 articles for dog owners on this site! Many of them have upwards of 200K shares.

78 thoughts on “Dog Hot Car Laws + What You Should Do If You See A Dog Left In A Hot Car

  1. Thanks for covering this important topic so thoroughly, Lynnette! Sadly, countless dogs die around the country every year after their owners leave them in cars while they shop or run other errands. United Animal Nations, through the My Dog is Cool Campaign, encourages people to call animal control, the police or 911 if they see a dog in distress in a hot car. Laws vary from state to state, but these are the people who are equipped to remove an animal from a crisis situation in a hot car. We definitely don’t encourage people to leave a dog in the car with the air conditioning running. Someone could steal the car and the dog; the battery could die or the air conditioner could stop working! Bottom line, leave Fido at home if you have to make a pit stop. He will be happier and safer there!

    1. I love how all the nightmare scenarios come up for leaving the dog in the car with the a/c running.  There are many more things that could go wrong leaving the dog at home for that same trip.  

      I’m not in support of leaving dogs unattended in cars but some of you people need to get a grip and/or a life.  If some loving dog owner runs in a store for 10 minutes and has to come back out to the loneliest of the lonely standing by their car with a stopwatch… that says a lot for the loneliest of the lonely only.

  2. If your car has air conditioning, and the car is cool when you leave it, and you are back in five minutes, then you are not endangering the dog. Because sometimes humans run quick errands when they take the dog to the park, this is entirely reasonable.

    What isn’t reasonable is the hysteria reflected in your article about the woman going to the grocery store. Call 911? Seriously, use some common sense.

    I say this because I and my dog have were recently the victim of this sort of garbage from “well-meaning” strangers. So, the dog stays home. She doesn’t get to do fun things, and I don’t get to spend time with her, all because of people like yourself. You aren’t a dog lover: you’re a jerk and a busybody.

    1. How long were you gone, 10 minutes? I’ve never been able to go to the grocery store or Walmart or where ever, and not had to stand in line for more than 10 minutes just to check out. Your car got 20 degrees hotter, so if it’s already 90 degrees or more, that could have been over 120 degrees. somebody SHOULD have called animal control or the police on you. If you love your dog enough to want to spend time with her and take her to do fun things then you would love her enough not to leave her in a car that even in 10 minutes could reach over a 120 degrees. I think YOU’RE not the real dog lover.

      1. You don’t know how long I was gone. I said five – but you up it to ten. It was pretty clear. So, you up the time, and then your make unfounded suppositions.

        Since you have no idea how hot it was, you have no idea whether the car got 20 degrees hotter. You have no idea whether the car was in the shade. You have no idea of the temperature when I left the car. Yet, not knowing any of the facts, you’re deciding that I’m a dog abuser (that is, someone who should be reported to the police). I have owed lots of dogs. They’ve all lived, and are living, long and healthy lives. None of them have got heat stroke. I have never endangered any of them. But you just can’t stand the idea that ANYONE could actually be trusted to behave as an adult, and be free of harrassment for it.

        The problem here is that you and the author, by all appearances, are self-righteous busybodies. Seriously, she relates how she stayed to watch the dog to see if he/she was in distress. Good for her. The woman was back in 6 minutes. But she feels guilty because she didn’t call the cops? She, like you, had no idea how hot/cool it was in the car.

        Some of us just want to live our lives, exercise our own good judgment, and not be harrassed.

        1. I too have been a victim of the well intentioned stranger. I timed myself and was inside for literally 9 minutes and upon coming to my car a lady claimed it was over 20 minutes and had called the cops. I waited for the cops while being harassed and petting my beloved dog in the car with the ac running. Thankfully, the cop saw that the woman was a nut job and sent me on my way.

          I support her decision to be worried about the dog, but once she realized that everything was fine and my dog was not in distress, I wish she could have turned off the crazy.

        2. You clearly didn’t fully read the article or watch the videos. They spoke with experts and clearly said that it didn’t matter how many windows you had cracked open or if you were in the shade or not. It is hotter in a car than it is outside, upwards of 20 degrees as they said, and that 20 degrees is even more when you are a dog covered in Fur. The truth is you don’t know if any kidney damage or brain damage was done to your dog; just because it didn’t drop dead doesn’t mean it was not given irreversable damage.

          Would you leave a newborn baby in a car? …even if for only five minutes? ….I didn’t think so.

          …and why wouldn’t you, because they are affected by differently by heat than a full grown human being, right? hmmmmm, just like a dog is, right?

          …under your reasoning we should stay out of everything for fear that we may be wrong……”I heard gunshots and voices screaming….but I better not call because my neighbors may be watching a movie….” …yeah well what if you ARE right? …better safe than sorry!

          1. What is it with you people? You MUST think that others disagreement is based on their ignorance.

            Let’s go over this slowly. The lady in the car, who was gone six minutes: SHE had an idea of how hot the car was when she left. Not you. Not the busybody author. She knew whether she was going to be gone six minutes or twenty. Not you. Not the busybody author.

            In my case, I have not stated the temperature of the day, to begin, the temperature of my car, to continue, whether the car was in the shade, or whether the windows were cracked, or anything else.

            So, an expert stating that a car left in sunlight can increase in temperature in x minutes is useless unless you know the basic facts.

            Then you criticize my “reasoning.” Let’s go over this slowly: analogy isn’t good analysis. In your case, it’s hyperbole. There were no gunshots. In this case, there was a woman who said she was getting one item in the store. You compare this to hearing gunshots? Are you nuts?

            Let me ask you, in your beneficient wisdom: will you allow me to get a single drip coffee at Starbucks and remain a free man? What if I part at a 7-11 and get a slurpee, when I see that there is no one in the store, and the car is plainly visible through the windows inside? Are you going to claim I’m abusing my dog’s kidneys then? Are you going to put me in jail?

          2. Don – I’m with you. All the angst directed at you is from the dog nazis… I suppose I should just take a deep breath and realize that the ridiculous overreaction to this is the unfortunate byproduct of living in a comfortable, affluent society. I just returned home from an event like the one described above where two well-meaning old busy-bodies chastized me for leaving my two schnauzers in a car, in the shade on an 85 degree day for 5 minutes or less with the windows cracked. By the time I returned, the car hadn’t even lost the cool of the air conditioning – even with the windows cracked. These people can site unnamed scientific authorities all day long, but they can’t argue with what I see and experience myself.

            On a related note, air conditioning didn’t become ubiquitous in the US until the 50s and 60s. It’s not like the streets were paved with dead dogs in the summer when the temperatures got up into the hundreds. They quietly dealt with it and survived happily ever after… (much like I wish these busybodies would)

          3. “By the time I returned, the car hadn’t even lost the cool of the air conditioning – even with the windows cracked.”

            Amen.  I think i WILL do an experimental video of me wearing a PARKA in my car w/ the AC off after running it on a 10-minute trip to the park, parking in the shade at the gas station, and waiting 5-10 minutes w/ a HUGE thermometer and Clock.

            Our dogs LOVE to ride in the vehicles.  Experiment: One day i left all 4 doors open on a hot day in our driveway. When the dogs were let outside, they went immediately to the vehicle and jumped in. The vehicle was already hot. I waited for them to leave the vehicle and go back inside [front door was open]. I had to call them out of the car cuz I knew it was too hot. Our dogs want to BE with their pack– even if we’re not romping.

            Before you people call anyone, be sure to OBSERVE the situation: observe the dog itself, don’t fudge on the time you watched, and note the interaction of the owner with their dog. The last thing you need to do is rip a happy dog out of a loving home into a shelter situation because you got grabby w/ your own perceptions.  I would WELCOME someone watching my dog while i went inside to make sure I didn’t lose track of time or slip n fall while inside and knock myself unconscious. DO call if it’s been more than 5 minutes and it’s a wicked hot day. But I’m more concerned with the animals who are trapped ALONE at homes while their human is at work. What a life….

          4. appreciate this discussion.

            I literally spend 24 hours a day with my beloved Border Collie and she probably means more to me than anything else.

            Yesterday a fellow who had the same mannerisms as Joe Jr., in “While You
            Were Sleeping”, was standing next to my car at Costco pointing to my
            dog saying she is too hot. I thanked him for his concern, but I was back
            from the pharmacy picking up a prescription that was waiting two days
            and to stop his lecture. I bought nothing else, no cart, no line at the
            pharmacy, in and out. Maybe 5-6 minutes car windows open two inches. My
            dog was excited to come to town which meant the dog park and she was
            panting like she does in the shade at home.

            Two other women came up and started hollering at me while I was trying
            to deal with Joe Jr and his hollering. No reasoning going on here. I
            just got into the car and left for the dog park.

            Trying to understand, maybe some people have to think the worst because of their own past decisions.

        3. If you sit in your car with a full winter coat on for the same time you leave your dog in the car without air conditioning, then you can say it is just fine in there.

        4. If it is over 70 degrees out side! NO ANIMALS are allowed to be left inside of a car weather the car is in the shade and windows are down. Its the law so let ANIMAL CONTROL or the POLICE decide when they arrive.. they test the car for how hot it is and if you cared about your animals you would be happy someone else was looking out for them..its almost impossible to walk in out of any store in 5 minutes..even 7-11.. 

    2. Leaving your dog in your car while you shop is not spending time with your dog. Neither is it sitting in your car while you navigate traffic. A dog needs interaction not just tag-along. Dogs should be left at home for errands unless you are gonig directly to a park or exercise trip/hike.

      1. that’s strictly your opinion however.,not based om much elsemy dog loves to go with me everywhere i go.i haven’t heard yet what people think about dogs being left in cars at night when it’s comfortable outside.but apparently it’s considered unacceptable by many as well

    3. So because you don’t get to take your dog shopping with you means you don’t get to spend time with her. How about you make time for her. If your life is so hectic that you don’t have sufficient time to spend with your dog without having to multi task then maybe you shouldn’t have a dog. Leaving a dog in a hot car in the middle of summer is abusive and you were served right!

  3. Today I went to the store to get some dog food and when I was exiting, noticed a dog in a car…it was panting. The AC was on but I still wanted to let the owner know, since I saw the dog panting like it was hot…. Apparently the owner didn’t like that because she started yelling at me saying “I left the AC on.. blah blah blah” I just wanted to tell her the dog seemed it was hot, it looked hot…..nothing else. If she really cared, she would’ve either taken the dog in the store since it was a pet store OR just left it at home OOOOR one other person could’ve stayed there with the dog to make sure the temp in the car was ok. 

  4. YYou are joke comparing a dog to a newborn baby. I’m sorry do feed your baby out of a dish placed on the floor? No I don’t think so. Unlike humans dogs are able to self sustain and be left alone with the proper nurishment and survive within the first six months of being born, oh that’s right dogs age 7 times faster than humans. A baby can’t even feed itself for more than 2 years so how is this comparison even sustainable. Bet u believe the world will end in December 2012 too. Ur the type of people who I like to refer to as band wagoners, hear one thing on the news and think your an expert. My dog goes to the beach and the lake with me everyday, and it gets up to 130 degrees in the exposed sunlight in south Texas all Sumer long, never had a problem my dog loves me and trusts me.

  5. just turn off your air in your car and sit there till you can’t take it any more (with the windows rolled up) then x that at least two and see how you feel I did and its not fun. I was just curious but now that i have that should be ones punishment for leavind animal or a child in a car,truck,van exc………..

    1. next time, wait for the cops to come. :) Let the woman know [very loudly] that you are more than willing to wait for the cops to come and determine WHO was in the wrong: ask the store manager to pull the video of WHEN you entered the store that you can use as evidence against the woman’s DISORDERLY CONDUCT. Ask any witnesses if they would like to wait for the cops WITH YOU so they can testify to the situation. Know what the law is about disorderly conduct in your area. When someone is a loud Jacka$$ you’re going to have to have a loud voice too. Also blatantly ask the manager if they routinely allow customers to be berated in their store: do you need to leave your purchase and get stuff elsewhere, or will they escort this woman out? Get the woman’s name and license plate/ vehicle description too– intimidation works both ways.

      The chances of them “taking your dogs” are very slim…..always feel free to NOT give in to ANY “authorities” when they want to take your property. Ask if you are being detained, and if they say no, ask if you are free to go. They can’t detain you unless they are going to arrest you on specific charges. Not good PR, especially w/a video feed to back you up. LEAVE THE SCENE and immediately write down your experience or blog it like you did here. Good luck!

      1. Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to leave the dog at home or leave it with a trusted friend?!? Seriously, people walking by cars *don’t* know how long the person has been gone, how hot it is inside, whether the dog is anxious or not. All they know is there is danger – and an empathic person seeing an animal or person in danger will go into fight/flight mode. And no, that response is *not* rationale (it’s activated by seeing as stick and thinking it’s a damned snake!), and it is *not* easily regulated.

        Caring about the welfare of others isn’t being a busybody — it’s being a good citizen. Try thinking of a dog as a living being that is more like 2-year old – unable to voice distress, unable to really care for themselves. Try thinking of them as a responsibility, rather than “property”. Try considering the situation from another point of view — not knowing, but fearing for the dog’s life. And maybe you’ll understand why people react the way they do.

        PS: Just because the law allows something doesn’t make it right.

        1. Its none of your business what people do with their dogs and its certainly not your business or call to be telling them to leave the dog home. You need to practice shutting your big mouth and getting your face out of peoples personal business. I have had people like you stalking me about my dog in my truck, my dog is just fine and would be a lot more distressed if I left her home alone for 3 hours. she is okey dokey and may rip your arm off if you stick it thru that open window trying to rescue her. Its her job to guard my truck and hold off people who get to close to her area that dog goes with me to keep thugs off me and creeps from trying to hijack my vehicle and she does a fine job of it back off bitches

    2. @joni davis read my post..animals are not always uncomfortable when left in dog is always are not always hot inside,because it’s not always hot outside.the issue i take with most people who claim to be concerned is that they’re too often beotching about the dog being too hot or too cold,as though they’re ALWAYS going to be one or the other..that’s just not true.–read my post above

    3. I have done exactly that on many occasions, sometimes for several hours, and have somehow managed to survive.

  6. I know this is an old article, so not sure if anyone will see this, but I was hoping to get some advice…

    I would like to preference my story by saying that I am a HUGE animal lover who stops on interstates to help animals, breaks for any moving critter, and volunteers much of my time for animal charities. I would NEVER intentionally put my pets in harm’s way!
    Recently I was on my way to the walking trails with my dogs in the car and I made a stop to a pet store to get more poop bags before our walk. It was a warm day outside, but by no means “hot” and I cracked the windows, parked in the shade, and even had a portable fan and AC on in my car (both of which were specifically designed for traveling pets). I know that cars get hot very rapidly, so I was going to be very quick, and with both the portable fan and AC and windows cracked, the inside stays very comfortable. (And yes, I could wear a down jacket in it and be ok.) I would never leave them for more than a few minutes, so I literally ran in to grab the bags.
    I was in the store grabbing bags and overheard an overhead announcement, but couldn’t hear what they said, and since it was never repeated, I ignored it, grabbed the bags, and proceeded to checkout. While checking out, I noticed a woman come in and tell the other checkout attendant that she was calling the cops about the dog in the car outside. When I noticed that she was describing my car, I spoke up and asked if something had happened. The woman proceeded to go into a screaming tirade (in front of many customers and employees) about how I was a terrible human being for leaving my dogs in the car for so long (mind you, I had been gone 5min at this point), accusing me of animal cruelty, and being “too immature” to take care of pets, and she wanted to know why I didn’t come forward at the announcement.
    I tried to explain to the woman that I could not hear the announcement, and that I had not been gone more than 5 min. I also tried to explain that the dogs had a fan and AC- but she didn’t care to listen and told me that she was calling the police because I had broken the law. The law in my state is very ambiguous and does not say that it is illegal to have your dog in the car unless they will suffer bodily harm- no temperatures are specified, etc. She continued to scream at me saying that my dog was panicking in the back and panting, but what she didn’t know was that I have one dog that has separation anxiety, and thus, no matter what the circumstance he proceeds to bark, whine, and pant when I leave home or the car. She also failed to realize that in the back seat was my other dog who was happily sleeping- NOT panting or crying! I quickly gathered my poop bags and headed out to the car. The woman continued her verbal abuse as I walked to my car, and she proceeded to call the cops and report my license plate number. Again, I tried to explain to the woman that the dogs were fine if she wanted to see for herself, but she just yelled that I was a “smart ass” that needed to “learn a lesson.”

    At this point I drove away, very rattled and unsure as to what to do. In fact it is still eating away at me a day later! So I guess my question is, how do you handle the fellow animal lover that goes off the deep end?

    I don’t mind that she was trying to look out for the safety of my dogs, but she didn’t know the whole story or circumstance before jumping to conclusions. I would be one of the first individuals to be concerned about a dog left in a hot car, and I would proceed to stay by that car until the owner returned or until it looked as though it was imperative to get the pets out. In fact, I have been in that situation!

    But I did not appreciate being publicly chastised and reported to the police without having a chance to explain the situation! And now I am totally paranoid that the police are going to show up at my door and take my pets away from me! I am not very quick on my feet with verbal responses in such stressful settings, so I couldn’t begin to really think how to respond, and at that point I was in tears, which didn’t help. Does anyone have any suggestions for future reference as to how to deal with such an individual?

    Again, I support the awareness about the dangers of pets in hot cars, but it cannot be assumed that all people with dogs in their parked car are terrible! I mean, as another example, what do you tell someone who is traveling with their pets and they have to stop to fill up the car- technically the car is in park, and the car should not be running while filling (thus no AC), and sometimes it can take 5+min to fill it- are they terrible? I have moved across the country multiple times with my pets during warm months and have no choice but to get more gas- and I sure as heck am not going to send my pets in the undercarriage of a plane (which has lead to plenty of animal deaths)- so my only option is to drive them!

    I wish people would just use common sense, but until then, any suggestions??


    1. I completely know how you feel! Just today I picked up my dog from the pet hotel where she stays when my family goes out of town. On the way home I had to return a Redbox dvd so I stopped by the grocery store. I left my dog in the car with the windows rolled halfway down (she’s a bichon so she wouldn’t have been able to jump out) and ran to the Redbox machine and came straight back, LITERALLY all in one minute. By the time I got back to my car, three women had gathered around and all started yelling at me about how my dog could have died and said she was barking profusely meaning she was in heat distress. Like you said before Anne, my dog has separation anxiety so if I go to a different part of the house she starts to freakout, something we have taken her to the vet for. I just don’t appreciate getting ganged up on by people who know absolutely nothing about the situation and won’t even hear your side of the story. Everyone who actually knows me, knows that I love my dog and would do absolutely everything in my power to help her. I probably take her to the vet too much because I’m scared something is wrong with her. It hurt me deeply to have these people telling me I don’t care for my animal when they didn’t even have the heart to listen to me.

      1. Try looking at it this way (watch the video) — people walking by see a dog that is in a locked car on a hot day. They can’t tell what temperature it is on the inside of your car, they don’t know how long you’ve been gone, they don’t know your dog has separation anxiety — all they know is that leaving dogs in hot cars can harm them irreparably or kill them. They don’t know if what you’re saying is legitimate or just an excuse (trust me, people that leave their animals and children in cars make all kinds of excuses).

        The people you encountered reacted emotionally — which could be expected. After all, if they care for animals, they are empathic — and maybe their distress is activated quicker and more strongly. No doubt, the fight/flight response is activated, and once activated, it is very difficult to get that response under control. They were in distress, even panicked. If you were seeing an animal killed, wouldn’t it upset you? Perhaps even beyond what you might think is “rational”?
        I dare say, what you experienced will probably happen more as people become aware of the dangers of leaving animals in cars. Consider leaving your dog with a trusted friend next time you have to do an errand, or whenever possible, leaving them at home. You’ll be doing your dog, yourself, and other people a favor.

        1. i would agree,except people have acted that way toward me at 2am, while my dog sits in the car waiting for me when the local temp was in the low 70’s and even 60’s.when people react so emotionally the situation doesn’t matter.even though my dog is comfortable in the car at 2am when someone gets nuts and goes off the deep end about it,everyone within earshot of that person sides with them..suddenly the dog owner (me)who isn’t guilty of anything EXCEPT having his dog in the car is publically branded ,to his face,as being a heartless S.O.B.//that’s not very cool..ya know.

        2. Telling people to just leave their dogs home when they do errands is ridiculous… lots of people have their dogs iwth them, constantly – mine goes to work with me – and so she also is with me on the pre & post work errands

        3. Yesterday I witnessed a dog in car for over 2 hours, windows cracked 3 inches. I reported it, went into movie. Came out 2 hours later, dog still in car (police somehow could not find car). So I know that the poor thing was in car for over 2 hours. It was 75 F out. According to a chart I saw online, if 75, after 1 hr, it is 120 IN car. That’s why it’s bad to do it.

    2. Every circumstance is different but if you were THAT woman, you may have become emotional as well & once those emotions kick in it’s hard to turn them off. Just chalk it up to the fact that it was a dog lover & if the circumstances were different (as in someone that DID leave their dog for a long time in the parked car), that person could’ve been saving a dogs life.

    3. Tell her to get control of herself or YOU will call the cops because she is harassing and menacing you. Or, just tell her to f*ck off, get in your car and shake your head at the ignorance of some self-righteous “animal lovers”.

    4. Here’s what you could do to see if it is too hot for your pet. Close the windows and sit in the car for 5 minutes. Are YOU uncomfortable? If YOU are, after 5 min., then your pet will be after less as they cannot sweat as we do. It is still better to not do this. It is not safe. What if something delayed you and pet was in car for 30 min.? You said ‘it was a warm day outside’. But INSIDE a car is completely different. I feel it is animal abuse to do this. I really think if people would sit in their cars, with windows ‘cracked’ they’d see why it is bad to do this. Please do not do this in the future.

  7. Why is it that the guilty dog owners get so defensive and angry when you confront them. I had an episode a few days ago, with a dog left in a car, it wasn’t scorching hot, but it was warm and muggy. (i could instantly feel the heat when I opened my car door that was only sitting for approx. 15 mins.). This dog was barking excessively and panting heavily. I checked to see if any windows were down but they were all shut tight. I waited for the owner/s to come and after 11 minutes ( I set the timer stop watch on my phone)they showed up. I told them about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car, and immediately they got deffensive, “we were only gone for 5 minutes” the dog is fine. I told them that it is still dangerous to leave a dog in a car for any length of time even with the windows rolled down, and that if they really loved their pet they would have left it at home. They flipped me the finger and told me to eff off.
    Hello, I am just trying to save your dogs life here. Why are you getting so offensive. WHat would have happened if that “I only have to run in to get one thing, I’ll be five minutes” turns into 20 or 30 because the line ups were longer than you expected, or you ran into an old friend and chatted for a few more.. Anything can happen. Never be to sure. If you have to leave your dog in the car then maybe you should leave it at home. If you want to spend time with it, take it for a walk, or drive to a park and then walk with it. Leave your errands for another time, after you drop your beloved pet at home.

    1. They get “defensive” because it’s none of your business and people don’t like to lectured by self-righteous busybodies.

  8. I went into a dealership this morning and joined my husband who was in a service manger’s office, turning in one of our vehicles for service. I had only been there for 7 minutes, just to make sure my husband had remembered everything on the list to be fixed. Just finishing it up and getting ready to leave when a nosy busybody customer came to the office and asked if it was our car outside with the dog in it. I said yes and she started yelling and scolding me in front of everyone that it was too hot to do that. I said I had left all of the windows rolled halfway down and was only gone a few minutes and the dog was fine. She wouldn’t shut up so I told her it was none of her Gd— business. She still kept it up so I told her to leave. She walked away still mouthing off so I loudly shouted F— you! We both returned to our cars and she still kept it up so I flipped her off. Her husband urged her to just get in the car and sit down, so he must be used to her shenanigans. My dog was fine as I had only been gone those few minutes although she tried to say it was 10 , which it was not. I would never place my dog in danger, and I am not an irresponsible pet owner as she tried to imply.I’m glad I stood up to her and didn’ t let her treat me like a doormat. She was out of line on this one. She had no right to do what she did. I normally do not lose my temper and use profanity like that, but she had it coming.

      1. No, you weren’t there so you are the extremely ignorant one. My dog was fine and still is. She was in no danger for the 7 minutes I was gone. I knew I would be right back, which I was. Even the service manager said the woman had no call to do what she did, that it was only a matter of just a few minutes. You obviously “don’t get it”, either. MYOB.

  9. People, don’t we turn off engine and stay in our cars for 10 minutes or more on a warm (not hot) days? I do, and many people I know do too. I really don’t know where the experiments about temperatures came from, but if I am okay in the car with the engine off, dogs are okay too. So many people love to be a hero without knowing how useless their heroic actions result. Unless the temperature is like the ones in Arizona, it doesn’t harm the dogs. Don’t people go to sauna? I guess these people never go because it can cause heatstroke. Freak people… Mind your own business. Some people go too far.

    1. You may have missed the point that dogs DON’T sweat like humans. If you watched the video from the VETERINARIAN, he said NEVER EVER leave your dog in a car on a warm day. just common sense – for an animal lover it IS our business if we see a dog in distress.

      1. No, it’s not. Unless, maybe, you can tell the dog is in real distress. If it’s bouncing around barking at you, it’s not in distress, other than that caused by you.

        1. yeah my dog would nut up if someone tried to get in my truck with her. I leave her in the shade with all four windows down about four inches and the roof vent open when I go grocery shopping she is just fine and dandy for an hour. In fact I checked this out at home before I started doing it. I put the truck outside in a semi shaded area and put a thermometer inside for 30 minutes. then I checked it outside the truck for 30 minutes and the temps were exactly the SAME so you nut cases need to back off

      2. yes dogs pant to cool down and they have mechanisms to cool themselves. God has provided for them and coyotes live in the wild without air conditioning you people need to get a grip, you are psycho s

  10. i agree with many of you that often times people go off the deep end and many times they’re ignorant of the truth.i take my dog EVERYWHERE i go and leave him in the car nearly all the time..i’m a night person..i sleep during the days. Every night i leave the dog in the car as i go in to walmart or dennys for a while.generally around 1 or 2 or 3am or laterbefore light.when it’s more than comfortable outside as /well as the fact i bring a collapsable bottle full of water that i pour into his collapsable doggy bowl so he has water the entire time that we’re out/many times in the past(and even recently) people make stupid comments.i’ll be sitting in the dennys for example, sipping on coffee at at 2am and a customer will come in and ask a waitress”whose car is that out there with the dog inside?” and of course what they generally want say to me is that i should roll down the window some so the dog can breathe(as though he’ll run out of air)..i politely remind them that the dog isn’t going to run out of air any more than a human being would that was in the same situation.that if that was the case then i myseilf wouldn’t be taking a chance,driving with the windows up. the police have even been called on me as early as 2am when the temp was 72 outside.the cop just laughed,realising that it was not only comfortable in the car,but a bit on the cool side even.why people believe that a dog will suffocate if the windows are closed is beyond me.i attribute it to igonorance.i also take him with me in the winter time when it’s in the 50’s and 40’s out at those times i carry his dog blanket with us and he wears his sweater.he’s also got his natural coat and i try to discourage him from removing it while we’re out and about.

  11. the dog owner, pressed charges becuse “I broke into her car. I just unlocked it and walked the dog. I have to go to court, not the dog owner, so much for being nice

    1. next time keep your nosey paws off a persons personal property I hope they make you do some time and fine you heavy duty. stay out of peoples business. and don’t touch anybodys shit. you are out of your mind

      1. now it is legal for me to break the window in And please stay out of my Facebook

    2. Pretty sure that counts as unlawful entry. You could have had worse happen to you than a court date.

  12. I had the same experience at a Kmart, I walked directly to the customer service & requested they announce over the loud speaker “Who ever left their dog in their please come to the front desk immediately” Whether he did it because he cared or did because I said I would call the police, doesn’t matter! She got the point & left the store with NO ITEMS! 5 min or 10 min it doesn’t matter! Common Sense if you going shopping leave your pet at home!!

  13. this happened to me the other day. i had to run into the store and i left my dog in the car with all the windows down in the way that i would sit in the car had i been waiting for someone. likewise, my dog had water to drink. we had just come from the park and i remembered i needed to get her some food so i went into the store to buy her some and i was confronted by an ignorant officer telling me i would be locked up. i wish ignorant ass wholes would mind their fucking business. my dog is well taken care of and i would never leave her in a condition that i would not subject myself to.

    1. My dog was in my Grand Cherokee, all windows down enough that he could comfortably stick his big head through, moon roof wide open and he had a bowl of water. I went into the store to get him some treats. Within 5 minutes, I was in line, getting ready to check out when my vehicle and license plate number got called on the p.a. system. I am so pissed that people cant mind their own damn business for 5 minutes. People need to stop trying to be a hero. You just end up looking like whinny nosy pricks.

  14. Thanks! I just called 911 today when I noticed a dog in a car across from mine. Temps were already in the 90s. They asked me where the car was, color, and sent someone to take a look. Hope the dog is ok.

  15. Seriously, this is a joke. Are you trying to tell me this lady left her car running, and ac on, and you STILL have something to complain about?

    Do you not realize that an air conditioning cranked car leaves your car colder within 2 minutes than your entire house can get in a day? ESPECIALLY IN THE SHADE? Do not bs me and try to act like the shade does not make a difference in the air temp , dogs choose places in the shade to cool off all the time. If the air the dog is breathing in is cool, not to mention cooler than the air outside then they are laughing. And if you’re standing there staring into their car, and possibly talking to them or shedding pity energy towards them, you can assure yourself they will distress. Learn to recognize the difference. It’s idiots like you that cause good pet owners grief while the bad ones are overlooked. I agree. Stop trying to be a hero, and figure out the facts before you assume people are more stupid than you.

    Dont act like you know about dogs, or science for that matter.

    Dumbest article I’ve read in my life.

  16. Just like everything else it depends on the circumstances and the people involved. I live in San Antonio and in the summer it gets HOT. I wouldn’t ever leave my dogs in a car in the daytime because Murphy’s law lives with me. The minute I left and ran the air conditioner, my car engine would explode. We just don’t take our dogs when we are going places. For those of you that take your dog with you, keep a leash in the car. Then in an emergency you can take him with you. As for grocery stores, you are out of luck. Have enough sense to not take your dog with you. But as far as needing something for your dog, the pet stores let your dogs come with you. With some people it is obvious they get it. Letting your dogs fry is not common here because it is so obvious it is too hot. Anyone who left the dog in the car when it is over 100 degrees needs to have their minds examined by a professional.

  17. Live in San Antonio also, I have several German Sheppards, and have a crew cab truck I got just cause of the dogs, don’t have kids and single don’t need a crew cab, but I got this one cause of the dogs. I understand the concern of dogs in vehicles, but like some folks I leave the truck running, AC on and on Max back seat folded up with plenty of room for them, doesn’t mean they’ll stay back there. I ignore the, can’t leave car running law cause of them. I’ve heard the AC can quit stuff, I’m a 17 yr AC tradesman, and I will know if my system is good or bad or needs replaced. The truck is not my only vehicle I have another work truck, this truck sits during the week and only runs on weekends and it’s only purpose was for transporting me and the dogs around and is maintained for that reason. So when I hear you AC can stop, you dont care about your dog’s leave them home, sorry I’ve gone further then the average person who just rolls down the window for the well being of my K9s. I break at least one law to keep them cool compared to some folks just roll down the window in the hot sun. I do think some people with their good intentions over do it a bit. So if anyone feels I’m A bad dog owner cause I get vehicle just cause of the dogs, and keep them cool with the AC in Texas heat and I maintain for the dogs so it don’t shut down, on them, blow it out your blow hole, let everyone know when you’ve done more.

    1. I agree with you. I was at the hospital yesterday helping my brother get into his wheel chair and to the office he needed to be. I left my dog in my van with the A/C on max, the temp outside was 80 degrees. I was away from my van 15 minutes, when I returned I took him out and walked him for 20 minutes, then gave him a large bowl of ice water and returned him to the well cooled A/C of my van so that I could check on my brother’s progress in the dr office. I returned 10 minutes later to find a County police officer by my van, she said that she received 5 calls that my dog was dying in my abandoned car. She admitted that she saw, on inspection , that windows were cracked and that the engine and A/C were running. She let it go with a warning and said that other people value their dogs “differently” than I do. (Slap) Other people leave their dogs at home kenneled for 8 to 12 hours a day, everyday—That is much more cruel!!

  18. Yesterday, before going into a movie, we saw a dog in a car – windows cracked about 3 inches. Reported it to theater manager, asked her to call police. Two hours later, dog was still in car. Police had come, but somehow could not locate car! Owner came out, I attempted to keep her from leaving, she tried to back over me. She said ‘dog is fine’. Here’s the thing: according to charts I’ve found online if temp is 75 outside, in car, after 1 hour, it is 120. She was gone 2 hours. It is NOT Ok to leave pets/kids in cars. You say ‘mind your own business’. I say ‘you are an animal abuser and should not have a pet’. You think it is OK for short periods – it is not OK . You don’t know what will happen after you leave your car – you could be delayed, your car A/C could stop, weather can change. The dog I saw had no water, he was laying lethargically after 2 hours, not moving. Would YOU want to sit in closed car for 2 hours when it’s close to 80 F? If not, then don’t do it to your pet. EVER.

  19. While it’s horrible when people leave their dogs in cars unattended for long periods of while they go see a movie (whyyy do this?). I think society has gone overboard –a car left in the shade with windows and sunroof open is going to measure a lot cooler than a car left in the direct sun. Dogs can also be given cooling packs to lay on, but options like cooling packs, air conditioning, and portable water bowls are never suggested in articles like this. Instead, the responsible solution given to the public is to leave your dog home like a piece of furniture & not enjoy its life with you on your outings.

    1. I did an experiment at home. with the sunroof open and the windows cracked about 3 inches the truck was EXACTLY the same temp inside as outside. and thats parked in partial shade. which I ALWAYS do if I have to drive around forf 10 min or walk a block to do it. I left the themometer in there for a good half hour too, not just 10 min.

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