Don’t leave any animals in cars. Don’t crack the window and pop into the store “for a few minutes.” Don’t park in the shade and walk away, thinking everything is cool (literally and figuratively). When it’s 70 degrees outside, the car's temperature can reach up to 115 degrees within the hour.

Many states actually prohibit the leaving of pets in cars. If you see an animal trapped and the police, animal control, or fire department haven’t arrived fast enough, don’t do anything unless you see danger is absolutely apparent. If you’re in a parking lot of a store, have the management make an announcement for the car owner to return. For instance, in Massachusetts, it is illegal to leave a dog or cat unattended in a vehicle under any circumstances, and police officers have the right to inspect vehicles they suspect of containing an animal. The results of this inspection may lead to criminal charges if the conditions are deemed dangerous. Yell the make and model of the car loudly to see if they're nearby. The more commotion you make, the better!

dog in a car

Breaking into someone’s car to rescue an at-risk animal is—in this author’s opinion—the right thing to do. It is, however, something that you need to take extraordinary caution in dealing with, as your actions could be considered a criminal act. Even though that's illegal, saving an animal should be your priority. Some owners will be grateful for saving their beloved pet’s life, but there is always the risk of paying for the damaged property. Read more about laws here.

While it’s unlikely that you’d be prosecuted for trying to save an animal’s life if you do decide to act, make sure you take videos or photos. In the digital age, this can help your case tremendously and even cause owners to be fined or jailed for animal neglect or cruelty.

If the animal exhibits one, or a combination of these reactions, medical care should be obtained immediately:

  • Excessive panting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Drooling
  • Collapse
  • Extreme confusion
  • Seizures
  • Whining with a long-hanging tongue

dog with tongue in a car

If you retrieve a Retriever or Shih-Tzu from a hot car, make sure you immediately get it wet with cool water. Wrap the animal in a wet towel or blanket to avoid further overheating and rush it to a veterinarian. These moments can be crucial for saving an animal’s life.

dog in a wet towel

Please pass this information along. In case you see such a situation, get in the car to omit a possible failure.