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


Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you.

Teresa A
Teresa Antela8 months ago

If you do not receive immediate help, break the window… This is what I would do!

Chad A
Chad A8 months ago

Thank you.

Nicole H
Nicole Heindryckx8 months ago

Thought I had seen a similar article somewhere else. However, WE CAN NOT SAY IT ENOUGH that people should NEVER leave their dogs alone in the car, when temperatures are moderate or high. You never know clouds pass by and 15 mins. later, there is full sunshine. Also, no use to put your car in the shade. The sun is turning, and where there is shadow now, there can be full sunshine 1 hour later. Therefore, one is NEVER NEVER NEVER to leave his dog or cat (or even a BABY) in the car. Opening the 4 windows of your car each for abt. 1,5/2 cm. DOES NOT PREVENT overheating !! It may take somewhat longer, but the excessively high temperature is NOT AVOIDABLE in this ways. And the excuse : "I thought I wld take only 10 mins" : just forget about it. You will see that the waiting line is longer than expected, or you encounter someone in the street and you start chatting, or some other 1000 things can happen.

Therefore N.E.V.E.R. LEAVE YOUR ANIMALS OR BABY in a HOT CAR. If I would see an animal in distress, I would not hesitate to make a quick photo, break a side or rear window and then call the cops. When I call the police in my city, with all the traffic, it will take them 20 mins. or more to get to me. And then : IT'S TOO LATE !!

Georgina M
Georgina Elizab M8 months ago


Angeles Madrazo
Angeles Madrazo8 months ago

Thank you

carol m
carol m8 months ago

I saw on FB (which I think is a good idea) to first before you do anything is to take a picture/video of the animal in the car. This can be used to show that the animal is in danger. Then call the police ,fire dept. or try and break the window

Amanda M
Amanda McConnell8 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Amanda M
Amanda McConnell8 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Brandy S
Brandy S8 months ago