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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 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?

Watch this video:

According to this video, the Good Samaritan Law will protect you if a child is in distress in a hot car, but unless a state has a law in place 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, there are 26 states in the US that make it illegal to leave a dog in a hot car. Can you believe it? Only 26 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, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota,  Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, 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 print 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 (PDF’s 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 you are 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, 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 non emergency 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 come across a dog in a car on a hot day? Or has it already happened? What did you do?

Cathy signature Chi



Debbie Layden

Sunday 10th of July 2022

I live in Canada and the laws are much the same here. I once came upon a dog stuck in a car with the windows up on a hot day. It was at Walmart so I found an employee and had them page the owner of the car and I waited for them to come. Eventually the person showed up and the dog was safe but I did have to wait a good half an hour and was worried that the person wouldn't show. I was prepared at any given moment to call the police and if need be I would definitely have smashed the window of the car regardless of the consequences I will not stand idly by and watch a dog suffocate in a car. I have a sticker on my car from the SPCA which clearly states that I support not leaving animals in a hot car.


Sunday 10th of July 2022

I just don't understand people who leave their dogs in hot cars like that. They shouldn't be allowed to have dogs.

Carolyn Dennison

Saturday 11th of July 2020

This happened to me years ago. A police substation was just around the corner,fortunately. I ran over there, the policeman was trying to decide what to do when the owner showed up. He was nice but let the owner know how danger this was and had her get the dog out.

Barbara Betancourt

Saturday 11th of July 2020

If I ever came across a dog in a lock hot car, I would rather suffer the concequences if help is not showing up and the dog is in detress, I would break the window to save the dog life.people can be so inconsiderate when it comes to their little furry friends. Even though they think that he or she will be fine for a few minutes.

Kim Bellis

Friday 28th of June 2019

Thank you for this post!


Friday 28th of June 2019

You're welcome Kim!

Sheena Edwards

Saturday 6th of August 2016

Unfortunately you can't fix stupid! Legal or not, I'm busting Windows!!! I think these people need to put on a fur coat and sit in the car with the windows cracked. Maybe THEN they'll understand!


Saturday 6th of August 2016

I agree Sheena. It's amazing how many people are clueless about this.