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What to do if you see a dog trapped in a hot car

Have you ever seen a dog trapped in a hot car and wanted to save it?

This holiday weekend may of us will be traveling. Matter of fact, all summer is travel time. We all know that pets should never be left in a car unattended. Think of getting into your car after it's been parked in the sun for a while. Hot. Hot. Hot. Most of us have seen the video of veterinarian Ernie Ward in a car with the windows cracked open where the temperature hits 115 degrees in less than 30 minutes.

According to PETA, "on a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes." Cars are like ovens which can rapidly heat up and threaten the lives of pets.

So we know you would never leave your pup or kitty in a parked car, windows cracked or not. But what if you see a pet who is?

Some states - Tennessee, as well as California, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Massachusetts - allow you to break the car window if you witness such a situation.

New York does not have that law - yet. But if you witness such an act of (probably unintended) cruelty, this is what we recommend:

  • Call 911

    • Outside NYC this is generally fine

    • NYC is stricter, meaning that they enforce that 911 is only for human life so you may have to impress on the dispatcher that this is affecting you, a human.

  • Stay with the car and engage the dog. There are two reasons for this.

    • This assures the pup he's not alone as he's suffering

    • You can see changes in behavior

  • Watch the pup's behavior. If you see him start to "go down" you have three choices

    • Continue watching (unacceptable for most of us)

    • Call 911 again to see how close they are

    • Break a window, knowing there may be consequences (unlikely, but possible)

Dogs don't have sweat glands like humans, so it's much harder for them to cool off. Cracking windows or leaving water in the car does little to help the dog as Dr. Ward demonstrated.

If you must take your dog somewhere, don't leave it alone in a hot parking lot. And if you see a dog trapped in a hot car, even if you live in a state where it's still illegal to break into a car to save a dog's life, you can always call 911 and consider breaking the window yourself if their response isn't sufficiently rapid. There is no reason to let dogs suffer or die because of negligent owners.

To learn more, contact us.

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