As summer approaches and temperatures rise, so does the danger of dogs dying in hot cars, left to overheat by negligent owners.
Even on a day when it’s 70 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can hit 90 degrees in just 10 minutes. On a hot day, the temperature inside a closed car can shoot as high as 116 degrees in the same amount of time.
What can you do to keep dogs safe this summer? The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, has some tips.
1. Never leave a dog in a hot car.
Leaving an animal in a car for any amount of time is dangerous. Cracking a window doesn’t eliminate the risk of heatstroke or death, and in some states negligent owners can face up to one year imprisonment.
If you have your dog with you:
- Plan to visit animal-friendly restaurants and shops.
- Bring a friend who can stay with your dog while you run into a store.
- Leave your dog at home where he is safe and comfortable in the air conditioning!
2. If you see an animal in distress, call 911.
Calling 911 is the first step to saving that animal’s life. Most states allow a public safety officer to break into the car and rescue an animal if his life is threatened.
3. Know your rights.
Social media posts have circulated across the country urging people to break a window if they see a dog trapped inside a hot car, but you should know your local laws.
Only 12 states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio, Vermont, Oregon and Tennessee — allow “good Samaritans” to break a car window to save an animal.
Almost all of those states require “good Samaritans” to contact law enforcement before breaking into the car.
In 14 states, only public officials such as law enforcement and humane officers can legally break into a car to rescue an animal (Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington).
In New Jersey and West Virginia, although it is illegal to confine an animal in a hot car, no one has the statutory authority to break into a vehicle to save the animal, not even law enforcement.
4. Let people know it’s not okay to leave an animal unattended in a car.
If you see someone leave their animal in a parked car, consider politely approaching them and letting them know that even if it’s a pleasant day outside, the temperature inside the car can skyrocket fast. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has created a printable flyer you can download at aldf.org/hotcars.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund’s sunshades also remind drivers of the risks of leaving animals unattended in a car. The sunshades feature the message, “Warning: Don’t leave dogs in hot cars,” in lettering large enough to be readable from across a parking lot. It also urges people to call 911 if they find animals locked in a car and in distress. The sunshades are available at aldf.org/hotcars and all proceeds benefit the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
For more information on keeping dogs safe this summer visit aldf.org/hotcars.