What To Do When A Dog Is In A Hot Car

By Allegra Ringo

It's officially summer, which means hotter days and no small amount of concern about our dogs' wellbeing. Not only do we have to worry about their paws on hot days, we also need to make sure they don't get stuck anywhere that's too hot for them. Namely, a hot car.

Dog waiting for his owner
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KUTV News in Utah spoke to Salt Lake County Animal Services spokesperson Callista Pearson about the dangers of pets in hot cars. Pearson said that in just 6-10 minutes, the temperature inside a car can fluctuate between 20-30 degrees. That means that even a quick trip inside the drugstore can turn deadly.

Should you break a window?

But what should you actually do if you see a dog in a hot car? It may be tempting to break the window, but don't start there. Though it differs by state, Pearson points out that most states have no law to protect you if you break into a car to save a pet. Don't risk getting into legal trouble. Instead, call 911 or your local police dispatch to ask for help. They can come safely and legally save the pet.

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The Animal Legal Defense Fund backs up Pearson's instructions with a video that says to call 911 and stay with the pet until help arrives. They also suggest researching your state's laws. Only eight states in the entire U.S. allow a person to break a car window in order to save a pet: California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, and Tennessee. And in six of those states, you're required to contact law enforcement before doing so.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund also points out that the inside of a car can quickly reach temperatures of up to 116 degrees on hot days. Keep in mind that the temperature inside of a car escalates quickly, so even days when the air outside is in the 70s can lead to dangerous conditions inside cars. Play it safe by leaving your dog at home if you need to run any errands that aren't dog-friendly.

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And if you see a pet in a hot car: remember, it's not going to help anyone, including the pet, if you get arrested. So always call 911 first and ask what to do. Stay with the pet until the authorities arrive, and you're done your work as a good Samaritan.