START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
3,054,834 people care about Animal Welfare

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

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, and just in time for the summer heat. 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:

Under Gunfire, Rescuers Save Dog from Backyard of Evil

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

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


Read more: , , ,

Photo credit: Dustine |

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
6:44PM PDT on Mar 18, 2014

thank you for sharing, this is very helpful!

10:11PM PST on Feb 17, 2014

We've called the police and animal services. Things can go downhill so quickly for an animal in a hot car :(

12:35AM PDT on Oct 31, 2013

I had walked my dog in this same park for years. It is a local park and everyone knows each other there.
One day when I got to the park to take my dog for a walk, several people who knew me approached me as they were very concerned about a dog's safety. A young couple in a BMW, that no one recognized, had left their dog in the car, in the parking lot. The windows were cracked but it was a hot day in the los angeles san fernando valley, and it was hot inside the car. The dog was obviously overheated.
Even with the windows cracked the car in a matter of 3 minutes can get so hot that a dog can get brain damage. And within 10 minutes, heat stroke that can be fatal. Dogs do not sweat like humans so therefore cannot take the heat that we can.
They told me the couple had been seen still hiking way up the mountain and it had been a long time already.
I am aware of the seriousness of heat stroke with dogs left like this.
I asked if someone knew how to break into the car and a man there had a coat hanger and did so.
I leashed the dog, took it out of the car, and got it into the shade. I cooled it off by pouring water over its back and on it's belly and paws, and gave it water to drink. I called animal control who came and took the dog. I told Animal Control I had broken into the car and the officer did not have any problem with it at all.
Animal Control said the owners would be fined.
The owners still had not returned.

You do what you have to, to save a life. It

4:16AM PDT on Sep 5, 2013

Sorry, Manel, but that makes no sense. If the dog was suffering because of excessive heat, it would not be inclined to be "jumping from one and to the other" and barking as described. It would be lethargic, panting or drooling. Read the symptoms as described in the article. You do sound like it was an over-reaction on your part and did you honestly stand there and observe that for 20 minutes?

8:51AM PDT on Sep 4, 2013

Some people are so uneducated to ralize that leaving a dog in a hot temperatures could be bad and serious. I recently met with a nasty woman who stormed at us since we told her that her dog was barking & jumping from one end to the other end while crying in extreme heat. Instead of becoming appreciative that we cared about her pet she became so violent at us and said that was not our business to tell her the dog was barking & the dog was OK. In plain truth the poor dog was totally distressed & suffering heavily and almost over 20 minutes in the boiling hot day & in that car. I think the every Community need to bring the Laws to protect these vulnerable animals from the careless and ignorant owners.

2:08AM PDT on Aug 4, 2013

People who leave dogs alone in a hot car should be examined for a mental problem. Plain old 'common sense' tells you NOT to!

We pulled up to a store one day and my hubby went in to get something. I stayed in the car. There were 2 small dogs alone in the car parked beside us. The car was running and the windows were cracked. When my hubby came out, I made him wait to see how long the lady was in the store. I was worried that the car could stall and the dogs would be in trouble from the heat. She came out about 2 minutes later, so the dogs were OK!

9:31AM PDT on Jul 26, 2013

we call the police

2:23AM PDT on Jul 26, 2013

I am SO tired of people not thinking it a serious thing to leave a dog in a HOT car because it's a dog and don't think it matters because its not a baby or something. if a baby can die, so can a dog, they are both alive. maybe you will think it matters when you come out and find your dog dead, these people are just as bad as people who physically abuse their animals.

7:27PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

PLEASE come join us fight for the Walmart employee that was FIRED for speaking up about a dog left in a hot truck. Here's the link!

7:27PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

PLEASE come join us fight for the Walmart employee that was FIRED for speaking up about a dog left in a hot truck. Here's the link!

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Power to them + and thank their parents

John c, your comment said, "One of the more ridiculous articles I've ever read." No, the article isn't…

I love the garbage about Harry Reid and his son wanting that land for Chinese solar farms....even though…

Story idea? Want to blog? Contact the editors!

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.