Rescuing Dogs Left in Hot Cars: What You Should Do
By: Abby Marshall | Reviewed by Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM | Sep 25, 2017
While you shouldn’t leave your dog alone in a car during any season, doing so on hot days can be deadly. It takes very little time for a vehicle to become an oven.
According to the U.S. CDC, “When temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees [26 to 37 degrees Celsius], the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130 to 172 [54 to 78 degrees Celsius].” How hot is too hot for a dog? Well, dogs don’t sweat like humans; instead, they pant to get their body temperature down. When they are forced to breathe hot air as they pant, the cooling process fails, and they can succumb to heat stroke quickly. Here we offer some advice on what to do when it comes to rescuing dogs left in hot cars.
1. Know Your Rights
Despite rampant advice given on social media to break the window of any car with an unattended dog inside, in many locales, doing so is illegal and could carry with it legal penalties. Research the laws in your province so you know ahead of time what is and isn’t allowed. Write down your police department’s non-emergency number as well as the number for your local animal control office, and carry them with you.
2. Assess the Situation
If you happen to see an unattended pup in a hot car, first assess the animal’s condition. See inside of a vehicle and look for signs of heat stroke, which can include lack of coordination, vomiting, restlessness, and heavy panting. If you notice any of these signs, immediately call the police. You may have to take action yourself if the situation is dire.
3. Try to Find the Owner
If the animal is not in acute distress, take note of the vehicle’s model, make, and license plate number. If there’s time, go inside businesses nearby and try to locate the owner. Ask shop personnel to page the owner. If you do find the person, explain the situation calmly and rationally. Focus on educating the individual about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car rather than confronting the person. Some people may truly not understand how quickly a vehicle can heat up or the ramifications to their pet.
4. Call the Police
If you are unable to locate the owner of the car, contact the police through the department’s non-emergency number. Call the local animal control office as well. Stay nearby while you wait for help to arrive, and monitor the pup.
5. Take Action
If the police or animal control officers have not arrived and the dog is in acute distress, you may need to act to save the animal. Find a witness if there’s time, and ask the witness to video the situation if he or she is able. Break the car window and remove the pup from the vehicle. Get the pet to someplace air-conditioned and give it cool water to drink. If the animal is not responsive, you may have to take it to a veterinarian for further care.
Can you break a window to save a dog? This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, especially since this action could be considered a crime. Before doing so, understand the ramifications, assess the dog’s condition, do your best to locate the vehicle’s owner, contact the police and local animal control office, and ensure there are witnesses to the situation. And on hot days, please leave your own pup at home rather than having them wait for you in the car.
6. Spread the Word: #nohotpets
The Ontario SPCA’s #nohotpets campaign includes images for sharing on social media and information on what to do for dogs left in hot cars in Ontario.
nohotpets.ca offers the following advice:
If you spot an unattended pet in a vehicle that appears to be suffering from heat exhaustion, do not hesitate to:
- Call 310-SPCA (7722), if in Ontario
- Call your local SPCA or Humane Society
- Call your local Police
Disclaimer: healthcareforpets.com and its team of veterinarians and clinicians do not endorse any products, services, or recommended advice. All advice presented by our veterinarians, clinicians, tools, resources, etc is not meant to replace a regular physical exam and consultation with your primary veterinarian or other clinicians. We always encourage you to seek medical advice from your regular veterinarian.