What to Do When You See A Dog in a Hot Car

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 30, 2012. We are republishing it for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!

Most of us are all too familiar with the feeling of dread that comes upon us when we pass by the window of a car and realize that a dog has been left inside on a hot day.  What should I do?  Do I break the window?  Do I call the police?  Do I try to find the car owner? There’s no easy answer, unfortunately, and those decisions are ones that only you can make, but now you can be better prepared for your next encounter.

“My Dog is Cool” is a campaign designed by the RedRover animal protection charity to educate people about the dangers hot weather poses to dogs. Through their “Don’t Leave Me in Here — It’s Hot!” fliers and posters, you can have what you need on hand to try and influence the behavior of dog guardians who need a reminder about the dangers of hot cars.  These are great to place on a windsheild of an offender’s vehicle or to hang on the door of a local business willing to notify their customers that leaving pets in the car is not okay during warm weather.

RedRover advises that if you see a dog in distress in a hot car, you should call the local animal control agency, police or 911 right away and, if possible, you can also try to find the dog’s owner by going into the adjacent business and making an announcement.

RedRover provides the following signs of an animal who is in danger of  death by heatstroke:

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Collapse or loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Respiratory arrest

According to RedRover, at least 14 states and many municipalities have laws that specifically address the problem of animals left in cars in extreme temperatures. And some states without these provisions may consider leaving an animal in an enclosed car to be animal cruelty.  However, many of us have hit a road block when calling the police to report these crimes as the dispatcher or the department itself often don’t consider these situations a priority.  Heat stroke can take hold in just 10 minutes or less, so sometimes the dog simply cannot wait for authorities who may or may not be on the way.

The last time I came upon a dog in a hot car, I waited by the vehicle for the owner to appear.  He approached slowly with his companion carrying their Starbucks coffees, in no hurry and with no awareness of the dog’s plight.  Truthfully, I found it hard to maintain my composure as I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, but I wasn’t the one who needed to be embarrassed. He needed to know that someone cared about the soul in his car. He needed to feel shame that a mother and daughter were standing by his sedan, looking after his dog, even though he had not.  He needed to know that I had called the police.  Though he left in a hurry reassuring me over and over again that his dog was fine, I do hope he’ll think twice about taking the dog along for the ride again on a summer day.

I’d love to hear from some of you have intervened for an animal in a hot car.  How did you handle it?  Were you successful?  Any helpful tips to share?


Related Stories:

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Deformed Pups Left to Die In Grass, Along Comes a Hero

15-Year-Old Dog “Dumped” On Ultimate Doorstep


Photo credit: Dustine | Dreamstime.com


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers13 days ago

Thank you for sharing.

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown9 months ago

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Carolt M.
Past Member 9 months ago

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks for the article.

Valentina R.
Valentina R.about a year ago

Stupid parents who leave their dogs and children in hot cars... just what are they thinking?

Jackie Blue
Jackie Briggsabout a year ago

Today in Jackson, Michigan (very sunny day) I saw a poodle type car in the Jackson Crossing area Home Depot in a white lexus with plate: SUSAN 1. It was in the car for at least an hour. Don't know how long before I came out and how long after I left but I was there an hour waiting for the cops or the owner. The dog proceeded to pant harder and harder with his body involved. No drooling so dry. Only the back two windows were cracked - one about 1.5 inch and the other less. It also had a sun roof for more heat. The windows were hot and you could feel the heat coming out of the cracks. We announced overhead at the store and after a half hour the owner didn't appear. I called 911 twice because the dog was getting worse and after about an hour and a half they called me and asked if the dog was still there. I felt helpless. I tried and couldn't do anything for him and didn't want to pay vandalism charges for her stupidity. I did leave a note on her car stating the dog was panting heavy and she would be lucky if he didn't die and that it is hotter in the car (no cussing). If I take my dogs out for a quick run into Speedway (less than 5 minutes) I leave my car running with the air high. I never leave them in an non-air car nor more than a couple minutes. It takes too long to even walk through a large store like Home Depot so they wouldn't be taking that trip with me. This dog was definitely in trouble and there was nothing I could do. She got away with it.

Sandy F.
Sandra F.1 years ago

I was in the parking lot of the Palo Alto VA Hospital, and I called the VA police for a cute little white dog who was in a vehicle with only a cracked window, temperature was in 80-90, dog's nose at the window crack, and the VA Police came and said the dog looked okay to him and left. I felt totally helpless and waited as long as I could because I had an appointment, I went in and reported it once again over the PA system, when I returned to my car, the dog and car was gone. I always wondered if I helped. I hate it when people do that. They also do it to old people. They get out and forget to lower automatic windows leaving the person unable to help themselves except to open the doors, which many do not know how to do.

Nicole Bergeron
Nicole Bergeron1 years ago

Only time an animal should be left in the car for a "moment" (and let's be honest that can be longer than a minute) is if the car is on and the A/C is full blast. We've done it that way when we have gone on roadtrips, and we don't worry (we put notes up saying the A/C is full blast, as well as put what the inside of the car registers at when the A/C is on), so there is no need to break the window. We also leave the doors unlocked because we have no spare key, but honestly only a fool would try to take anything from an unlocked car with two big dogs that like to bark in it.

Cindy J.
Cindy J.1 years ago

I did confront a dog owner once. She was very defensive claiming she was only going to be in the store for a few minutes. I had sat almost 10 in my car waiting for a friend and couldn't sit there without rolling down my windows. I'm not sure how long she'd been in the store but she took the time to put her kids in the stroller. So I know the dog was in the car for more than 10 min. The store owner was on my side and went out with her to give the dog water and make sure he was OK. Not sure if she'll ever change how she treats her dog? But I felt better than just walking by like I didn't see anything.

John Hines
John Hines1 years ago