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What to Do If You Find a Dog in a Hot Car

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Summer after summer, those of us here at The News Wheel find ourselves preaching the same message: please do not leave your pets in a hot car. Even if it’s only 72 degrees outside with the perfect spring breeze, the interior of your car will not feel perfect. The sun beating down on the roof of your car will cause temperatures inside the car to skyrocket to well over 100 degrees (no, rolling down the windows doesn’t really help), and it can take as few as 15 minutes for your pet to die of heatstroke in a hot car.

While many of us know the consequences of leaving your dog in a hot car, some people don’t seem to have the same awareness. You may not have to worry about your own dog in your car, but it’s possible you could come across someone else’s dog in the parking lot. So what do you do?

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First, assess the situation. If the windows are rolled down and it’s only 50 degrees outside, you probably don’t have as much to worry about (but for the record, we don’t recommend leaving your pet unattended in the car — ever). If it’s a warm spring or summer day and the sun is beating down on the car, it may be cause for concern.

Take a closer look at the dog to assess its condition. Look for signs of stress such as excessive panting. Take photos of the car, paying special attention to the make, model, color, and license plate. If you’re in a business’ parking lot, run inside and notify a manager. Store employees can often make announcements to the entire store, and the owner may hear and come back outside to attend to the animal. Quickly make your way back outside and continue to monitor the dog. You can also ask bystanders to go inside and report the situation for you if you’re uncomfortable leaving the dog.

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If the owner doesn’t return to the car within a few minutes, you’ll want to call the authorities. You can be prepared for this before it happens — make sure you have the phone number for your local police department and animal control in case you need to make a report. You’ll also want to learn more about your local laws regarding leaving pets unattended to see if it’s a crime in your state. It’s also good to note whether or not your state has Good Samaritan laws; these are laws that protect you from liability in the event that you need to break the window to get the dog out.

Most importantly, don’t leave the scene until the dog is safe. Once you’ve called the authorities, wait by the car until the owner, police, or animal control arrive. The dog’s safety is the top priority, so it’s important not to leave them alone.

Sources: The Humane Society of the United States, PETA (here and here)