The thought of seeing a dog in a hot car alone during the summer is very scary. But do you know what's even scarier? Hundreds of dogs die from heat exhaustion in parked cars every year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The good news is that you have the opportunity to help save a pup's life if you ever spot one in this dangerous situation — even if the dog has only been left alone for a few minutes.
Research has shown that the interior temperatures of cars not only increase steadily as minutes pass, but they can also sometimes exceed the temperatures outside. This can even happen when the sun isn't completely showing — one study indicated that cars' interior temperatures reached a whopping 125 degrees in less than 20 minutes on a hot, cloudy day. So if you see a dog in a hot car, you need to act quickly, especially since you don't know how long he or she has been there all alone.
What to Do if You See a Dog in a Hot Car
First, you need to be sure to take down the car's make, model, and license plate number, according to The Humane Society of the United States. Next, check to see if there are any businesses nearby. If there are, go inside them and tell the security guards or managers what's happening, so that they can make an announcement and possibly find the dog's owner. If the owner is still nowhere to be found, then call the non-emergency number of your local police or animal control and wait close by the car for the responders to arrive.
Now is an excellent time to brush up on your state's laws about what else you can do to help an animal in distress. Currently, 13 states have "Good Samaritan" car laws, which allow private citizens to legally take matters into their own hands to save pets in hot cars. However, it's extremely important to read every single detail about those laws, as some have specific caveats, such as calling law enforcement first or not using any more force to enter than absolutely necessary. Find out the hot car laws in your state here from the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
In the meantime, take a moment to spread awareness of the danger of leaving a dog in a hot car during the summer. You never know — a short conversation with friends or a simple social media post may save a pup's life.