Dogs Left in Hot Cars: What to Do in the Worst Case Scenario

June 7, 2017 at 12:44 PM by Nikki Wardle

Dog in hot car

It's that time of year again when the weather heats up, and pet owners everywhere get out and about to enjoy summer. However, too often local headlines during the summer months tell a cautionary tale: pets left in cars while it's hot outside are likely to suffer severe distress and even death.

Sadly, even with the news headlines and the various efforts to educate the public to protect their pets, there are instances every year where dogs suffer and die in a parked car.

To often this when someone believes they'll only be gone for "a quick errand", cracks the windows so they won't be endangering their dog. On the contrary, it's always dangerous to leave your dog in a parked car: even on a mild day with temperatures in the 70s, your car's inside temperature can soar quickly to over 120 degrees in minutes. If the day's temperatures are in the 90s—a typical summer heat for the Treasure Valley—the inside of a car can reach over 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes.

Every pet owner must take precaution and never leave their dog in a parked car—even with the windows down.

But what if you encounter a dog in a parked car on a hot day? There are steps you can take to help the animal, but keep in mind the laws in Idaho when you do.

Can I Break Into a Parked Car to Save a Dog?

Every year around this time, social media posts will circulate claiming that any individual who saves a dog from a parked car will be immune from charges for damage to the vehicle. The answer, it turns out, is much more complicated.

If you spot a dog in a parked car that is alone and showing signs of distress (no matter how minor), you do have options to help.

First, you should immediately document the situation and make every effort possible to contact the car's owner. If you're at a business or grocery store, talk to the store management or front desk employee to page shoppers with the vehicle make, model, and color. Don't leave until the situation is resolved.

If you're unable to reach the owner of the car and the animal is in distress, call the ada county animal control dispatch at 343-3166, non-emergency dispatch at 377-6790, or 9-1-1. Get the proper authorities involved as soon as you are sure that the dog is in distress and that you cannot locate the owner.

Many social media posts will urge you to break into a car to free a distressed dog, claiming that you won't face charges when relieving a dog in a parked car. However, in Idaho, the law isn't clear enough to guarantee charges won't be brought against you—if you choose to break into a car, you'll have to do so knowing that this is a possibility.

Idaho's current law protecting animals: Idaho Code Title 25, Chapter 35, "Cruelty to Animals" states, "Every person who is cruel to any animal, or who causes or procures any animal to be cruelly treated…shall, upon conviction, be punished in accordance with… Idaho Code." This section of Idaho law also authorized animal control officers and law enforcement officers to take possession of any animal that is deemed to have been treated cruelly.

Keep Your Dog Safe This Summer

The bottom line: Never leave your dog in a parked car—ever. If you're running errands and you know you'll be in and out of your vehicle, leave your dog behind in your air conditioned house. It's never worth the risk to cause your pup to suffer unnecessarily, or even and face criminal charges if you do.

We want everyone to have a happy and safe summer!

Topics: Pet Care

Nikki Wardle

Written by Nikki Wardle

Nikki has been writing for Intermountain Pet Hospital since 2014.