August 05, 2020 Dogs Responsible Pet Ownership

What should you do if you find a dog in a parked car?

A dog left in a parked car

What should you do if you find a dog in a parked car?

Hopefully you will never find a dog in a parked car because dogs should never, ever be left in a parked car. But every summer, dogs die when the inside of a parked car becomes an inferno. If you do find a dog in a parked car, there are things you can do. Your choice will depend on your location, since state and local laws govern this situation.

State laws vary

Thirty-one states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle. But that does not give you carte blanche to enter the vehicle and release the dog. Most laws require you to take steps before breaking into a car to protect you from liability for damages. In some states only first responders can break into a locked car. Other states require you to call 911 before breaking in; yet others would hold you responsible for 50% of the damages to the vehicle sustained in freeing the dog. If you’re unsure of your state’s laws, or your state does not have a law in place, take the three steps below to rescue a distressed dog.

Enlist nearby businesses to help

It’s likely the owner of the car is in a nearby store or picking up a curbside order. Note the time on your watch, record the make and color of the car and the license plate number. Ask the stores to make an announcement on the loudspeaker about a dog in a parked car. Photograph the dog in the car in case of a legal proceeding. Stay with the car until the owner returns.

Call animal cruelty prevention or animal welfare officers

Even if your municipality doesn’t have a specific law to prohibit leaving an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions, doing so may violate animal cruelty or welfare laws. Local animal cruelty prevention agents or animal welfare officers are a reliable source of information on what can be done to help the dog locked in the car. In some jurisdictions, these officers can legally remove a dog from a hot car.

Call 911

If neither of the suggestions above resolve the situation, the owner does not reappear, or the dog appears on the verge of collapse, then calling 911 may be your only option. If you have remembered to record the time you first noticed the dog in the car, you can accurately tell the first responders the minimum time the poor dog has been inside the car. While they free the dog, you might want to check your car’s trunk for water to give the dog a drink or to pour on him if he is unable to drink.

The AMC’s Usdan Institute has collated other tips to prevent heat related illness in your dog during these Dog Days of summer.

Tags: dogs, heat, heatstroke, summer,

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