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Rescuing Dogs from Hot Cars & Law

Rescuing Dogs from Hot Cars & Law

Every summer we hear terrifying reports of children and animals who are left in vehicles.  It takes only a moment for a vehicle to transform into a virtual oven.  Even cracking a window open in 70 degree weather does not eliminate the dangers.  Every year we hear stories about people leaving children and animals in cars “for just 2 minutes” to drop something off or pick up something fast and return to the car and discover their lifeless child or animal inside.  If you had never heard of such a thing you must be living under a rock.  The weather doesn’t have to be very hot in order for it to be dangerous.

Hot Car Chart State Farm

From State Farm Insurance

What can happen to dog left in hot cars?

  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling
  • Heatstroke
  • Increased body temperature
  • Sudden (acute) kidney failure
  • Multi-organ failure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Brain damage
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened
  • Death

The following video illustrates how it would feel to be in a hot car:

Depending upon the severity of the situation, the dog might need to be rushed to the vet.  Pump up the air conditioning.  Give the dog cold water to drink and you can put cold water onto the dog and drive with the windows open you have no air conditioner.

Not all states within the USA have legislation to protect animals that are left unattended in vehicles (Hot Car Laws).  Extremes in weather can be life threatening to humans and animals.  January 26, 2016 appears to be the most recent update of states that “hot car laws.”  Click on the states to find to exact laws that each state has and all the provisions Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida (pending), Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania (pending), Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  It is a good idea to check to see if your state has been added after April 2016.  This list was the latest one I could find.  If you discover other states have been added, please comment so I can confirm the information and add it to this article.

The following map indicates the sates that have laws to protect unattended dogs in cars.  The RED states have legislation.

Unattended Dogs in Hot Cars Laws USA Map ff0d00

Specific legislation and provisions for each state:

The Animal Legal Defense Fund provides information about the regulations regarding unattended animals in vehicles.  More specifically, what is covered under the laws, what is prohibited, the penalties, and the rescue provisions for each state that has legislation.

Each of those states with legislation has different requirements with regard to breaking into a vehicle when there is a dog unattented and in danger due to weather conditions.  For example, Tennessee and Wisconsin have “Good Samaritan laws” allowing a bystander to break into a vehicle to rescue a dog (after following a specific protocol).  New York and Florida have pending laws for good samaritans.  Other states only allow law enforcement, firefighters, or certain animal organizations to perform the task of removing the dog from a vehicle.  Something I can’t wrap my brain around is that New Jersey and West Virginia have laws regarding animals in hot cars, yet there are no provisions for rescuing these dogs (even by law enforcement).

What can you do if you see a dog left in a hot car?

1. Take pics of the dog in the car, the license plate and write down the car make and model.

2. If there is time to do so, go into nearby stores and report the situation to the manager.  Provide the manager with the license plate, make, and model of the vehicle.  Tell the manager to page the owner of that car. Make sure the manager follows through.

3. Wait by the car for the owner to return.  Explain to the owner about the dangers of leaving the dog in the car.  Be calm and sincere.  People are more likely to listen if you don’t put them on the defense.  People really don’t do such stupid things deliberately so don’t jump down a person’s throat so you can help the person understand how dangerous that a couple of minutes in the car can be.

4. If the person doesn’t show up or refuses to do anything, contact any of the following:

  • 911
  • local humane authorities
  • fire department
  • PETA can help.  They have a nationwide hotline for use in dire circumstances 757-622-PETA (7382), select option 2  then select option 0 to speak to someone immediately.



Newsroom. “All Dog Breeds Deserve A Chance – State Farm®.” State Farm. State Farm Insurance, n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. <>.

“Overview of State Laws: Leaving Unattended Animals in Vehicles – Animal Legal Defense Fund.” Animal Legal Defense Fund. N.p., 26 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 Apr. 2016. <>.








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