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How to Save Dogs Left in Hot Cars

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How to Save Dogs Left in Hot Cars

It is getting hot and humid here in Virginia Beach right now. And this time of year, we often hear about dogs (and sometimes children) left in hot cars. I wonder, what are those pet parents thinking? Do they not care what happens to their fur kids? Or are they just ignorant and think they will be fine?

If you want to get an idea of how hot it feels, check out the video below with a vet who sat in a hot car for 30 minutes:

According to this video below, the Good Samaritan Law will protect you if a child is in distress in a hot car, but unless a state has a law for pets, the Good Samaritan Law doesn’t cover animals. It should, but it doesn’t.

I know many of us would love to do this:

busted window

But what are the consequences? There have been cases where someone broke into a car to save a dog and ended up getting arrested for doing so.

First of all, at the time of this writing, 31 states in the US make it illegal to leave a dog in a hot car. Can you believe it? Only 31 states. And even in those states, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are free to break into the car to save the dog.

Those states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota,  Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

You can see what those laws are for each of those states here.

So how hot does it get inside a car? Check out this infographic from PetPlan:

hot car

You can make paper copies of this by clicking the PDF here and then printing them from your computer.

So what can you do if you see a dog in a car on a hot day?

First, it’s a good idea to have the phone number of your police department’s non-emergency phone number programed in your phone or keep it in your wallet. Also, keep Animal Control’s phone number with you too.

You may also want to have some info sheets (PDFs provided above and below) to give out that you keep in your glove compartment.

If it’s really hot or the dog looks to be in distress, go ahead and call these numbers and give them the details.

To tell if a dog is in trouble, check this out:

heat stroke

You can get the PDF here:  signs of heat stroke.

If the dog doesn’t look to be in any distress yet, get the details about the car (make, model, license number, color) and go into the nearest building and ask the manager to call them to their car over the loud speaker.

Go back to the car and wait for the owner to come out. If they don’t within a few minutes, go ahead and call those numbers and report it.

While waiting, you may want to take some photos or video for evidence if needed. In the video, mention the time you found the dog, the temperature if you know it (check the weather on your phone), and any other details you can think of.

When the owner comes out, don’t get into a confrontation with them, but do let them know that you were worried about their dog in the heat and have called the police (if you already have called them). To help them realize what the danger is you can give them a paper copy of the PDF: How Hot it Gets in a Car if you made some ahead of time.

So what do you do if the dog is obviously in distress, and it doesn’t seem like the owner or the cops are in any rush to get there? I can’t tell you to break into the car to get the dog out but I believe that’s what I would do to save the dog. Yes, I may get in legal trouble but I don’t think I could live with myself if I watched a dog die while I did nothing. First though, before breaking in, I’d check to see if the doors were even locked.

If you don’t want to go to that extreme, you could call 911 now (instead of the nonemergency number) and tell them the dog is dying. They may get a cop out there faster or tell you to go ahead and get the dog out.

So what would you do if you came across a dog in a car on a hot day? Or has it already happened? What did you do?

Car safety tips for dogs

Heatstrokes in Chihuahuas

Can Chihuahuas get sunburned?

Cathy signature Chi
blond woman holding white chihuahua

Cathy Bendzunas

Pet Blogger

I have had dogs all my life. I have been a pet groomer, worked in a pet hotel, and a kennel, and have bred and showed dogs.


Saturday 30th of March 2024

Saved a beautiful puppy once that was left in a car on a super hot day with one window left open 1/4in. He was on his leash that was a thin old leather long thing. Well, puppy somehow wound the leash around the headrest to the point that I knew one more time and he’d hang himself and as I tried pulling on the window towards me, he hung himself so I forced my arm into the car to unlock the door(It was an older lock system that was on the door armrest.)

Poor pup was out of it so I poured room temp water on him in the shade and took him into a store once I covered him with a towel. I already called the police and when they came I went out to them and told them what happened.

Owners came out and I’ll tellYa, I was ripping mad at them. They were in the air conditioned restaurant for 1hr while their pup was outside in the car. When we first saw the pup to the time we had him out of the car was 15mins.

The police had a stern talk to them and the vets who work on these cases when called took the pup to make sure he was alright.

The next day my arm was purple, swollen and sore but knowing I saved a pup, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I'm thinking of buying one of those little devices that Firemen and Policemen use for breaking the windows. And I'm going to make a kit in my car or I'll carry extra water, some towels, and some other things that could help me get into the car without breaking the window. It all depends on the situation of the animal or child in the.

Cathy Bendzunas

Saturday 30th of March 2024

Wow Pam! I'm so glad you were there to help the little guy! People can be so ignorant. I like your idea of making a kit.

Twinkle's Mom

Friday 29th of March 2024

Cathy, Went on Internet and found some information from 2023 regarding the aforementioned discussion.

Cathy Bendzunas

Friday 29th of March 2024

I already had that link in the article but I'm glad you left your comment because when I went to check the post to see if it was the same link, I saw that all the changes I made yesterday had reverted back to the old article and I never even knew. So I just made the changes again and hopefully they will stay this time.

Twinkle's Mom

Friday 29th of March 2024

Excellent article Cathy! It burns me up to see furbabies in a hot car! I keep the police and animal shelter numbers in my phone just in case. I have confronted a couple of folks when I have seen them coming back to their car. I said, "May I walk your dogs for a few minutes and you can sit in the car in the sun, don't turn on the A/C or roll down the windows for you to see what it's like for your pet for just a few minutes". Because they said, we were just gone for a few minutes. I wish I had a fur coat for them to put on as well.

Cathy Bendzunas

Friday 29th of March 2024

Good for you Twinkie's mom. I left a note on someone's car one time. It was only in the 50's but the dog was so frantic, I guess because their owner had left them in there by themself and I was afraid it was going to have a stroke. That was before I did the research and learned what to do. Now I would go in the store and ask them to call over the intercom to the person to come out to the car. I don't know why I didn't think of that then.


Wednesday 31st of May 2023

If breaking into a car is the last resort to save a dog or any other living creature, I would definitely do it. I would also document everything with photos and video, and call the police prior to breaking in.

Cathy Bendzunas

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Definitely documenting everything is a great idea.


Wednesday 31st of May 2023

I might be wrong, but I believe Texas is on that list since my neighbor was arrested for leaving her dog in her car when she went inside a diner to eat.

Cathy Bendzunas

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Good for Texas. I have to say I'm kind of surprised though.