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

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 30, 2012. 

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


Debbi -.
Debbi -about a year ago

If I see a dog in a car, I always check it out. I'd have no problem breaking a window to save one. I'd also call the police.

Brett Cloud
Brett Cloudabout a year ago


Brett Cloud
Brett Cloudabout a year ago


Erin S.
Erin S1 years ago

If you see this, call animal control immediately! I've done it several times. People are selfish and apparently have no common sense when it comes to animal care.

Vi M.
V M1 years ago

I have had to do this twice so far and if need be, I will again. I can't stand seeing an animal suffer because of human ignorance.

Nicole D.
Nicole D1 years ago

I hope I never have to see this...


Sadly we need this kind of reminders... :(( Shared. Thank you!

ANA MARIJA R1 years ago

Sadly we need this kind of reminders... :(( Shared. Thank you!

Gisela Gama
Gisela Gama1 years ago

Thank you ! Sharing your post !!

Trish K.
Trish K1 years ago

If it's in my small town I look for the owner - then I call the cops and animal rescue. Don't ever think you will be gone for just a minute. One minute in a hot car under stress is 60 seconds to long.