What To Do if You See a Dog Left in a Car


By Andrew Puccetti

We’ve all sat in a parked car during the summer and noticed how hot it gets. Because automobiles trap heat like a greenhouse, making it much hotter inside the car than on the outside, the temperature soars within minutes. Every year, dogs die because their guardians leave them in a car, even for “just a minute,” to run an errand. Unfortunately, because dogs can only cool themselves by panting or sweating through their paw pads, parked cars can be a deathtrap for dogs within fifteen minutes. Despite the common misconception, this is true even with the windows cracked.

So what should you do if you see a dog in a parked car? First off, do not be afraid to step up and act––this can be a life or death situation.

  1. Take down the car’s color, model, make, license plate number, and specific location. Write down a description and the condition of the dog(s), especially if the animal(s) are displaying any signs of distress. Also note the time. This information is important to find the owner of the car and for the police (if you end up calling them).
  2. Have clerks in the local buildings make an announcement with the make/model of the car to locate the pet parents. If the guardian does show up, make sure to educate them on the dangers of keeping a dog in a parked car and make sure the animals gets out of the car as soon as possible.
  3. If the guardian of the animal does cannot be found, call the local police or animal control. This is a good option, as the police will show up faster and will have the ability to remove the dog from the car. Depending on the condition of the dog, this should be done right away. The parent of the dog may be a little angry at finding a police officer at the car, but they will probably never leave their dog in a parked car again.

Do not leave the scene until the situation has been resolved, and remember that it is often smart to find some witnesses. There are often ordinances against leaving a dog in a hot car, and it is usually considered animal cruelty.

Signs of a dog in distress include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive panting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Trouble breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

Since charges can be serious for illegally entering a car, we recommend keeping direct action to authorities, but if you do end up removing a dog in distress it is important to get him/her to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible. In the meantime, get the dog into a cooler, hopefully air-conditioned, space. Wet the dog’s coat with room-temperature water and do not force drinking. Put the dog in front of a fan or fan manually.

Never be afraid to stand up for a dog in a parked car. The life of any animal is important, and educating the dogs’ guardians is vital. Who knows? You may be saving a dog’s life.

Andrew Puccetti may only be fifteen years old, but he has already shown immense dedication and passion for the well-being of animals. Every other week Andrew will be here talking about the relationship between young people and animal rights–how they can make a difference, how they are already making a difference, and how important it is for kids to continue the fight for our animal companions. Learn about Andrew’s non-profit organization Live Life Humane and check out his blog!


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