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

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on June 30, 2012.

Many of us are all too familiar with the feeling of dread that descends when we pass by a car window and realize that a dog has been left inside the vehicle 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 personal ones — but now you can better prepare for your next encounter.

“My Dog is Cool” is a campaign designed by the RedRover animal protection charity to educate people about the danger that hot weather poses to dogs. Their “Don’t Leave Me in Here — It’s Hot!” fliers and posters aim to influence the behavior of dog guardians who may need a reminder about pet safety. These are a great resource to place on the windshield 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 the summer.

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

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

  • 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, emergency dispatchers and police departments 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 coffees — and without any awareness of the dog’s plight. Truthfully, I found it hard to maintain my composure, 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 hope he’ll think twice about taking the dog along for a ride again on a summer day.

I’d love to hear from some of you who have intervened when seeing an animal enclosed 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

Photo Credit: Jordan Negron/Unsplash


Naomi D
Naomi D6 days ago

I live in El Salvador sooooo ........

Melanie St. Germaine

Call the police > owner can be charged for negligence, failure to provide the necessities of life, animal endangerment. No hot pets. Leave your pets at home on hot days!!!

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

be careful, some owners might be large and violent

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

don't damage anything unless the dog is visibly distressed

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago


Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago


Julia R
Julia R7 days ago

I would break a window if I couldn't get 911 there fast enough and there was no sight of the owner!

Carol S
Carol S7 days ago

Thanks. People can be so cruel :(

sue higgins
sue higgins8 days ago

What is it with these people that they just don't seem to understand that a dog in a fur coat on a really hot day trapped in a car is suffering and if you still haven't got a clue then put on a thick coat and sit inside your car with the windows shut or a small gap left open and see how long YOU will last !

Sophie L
Sophie L9 days ago

Thanks for sharing