Pet Tips, Dog Health

Dogs Can Die In Hot Cars

July 14, 2022

dog hot car safety

Dog hot car safety… this is a topic that comes up every summer!  I understand the appeal of taking your dogs with you to as many places as possible!  I’ve always loved taking my dogs places with me.  I do it so often, that it sometimes feels weird to walk around without any leashes in my hand.  For a long time my little pack went without a car.  A few years ago, while prepping to move out of the city, we purchased our first car.  It took quite awhile for Kit and Fen to get used to it.  For the most part, they really enjoy car rides now.  However it’s important, when the weather is warm, that you remember to never leave your dog (or any other pet) out in your car, even if it’s “just for a minute”.

Even on a relatively cool day, temperatures inside a car can rise enough to cause heat stress, stroke, and sometimes death.

There have been numerous studies that show just how quickly, even on a cooler day, temperatures inside a car can rise.  Even when the weather outside is a comfortable 75*F, temperatures inside parked cars can rise to 100*F and above in a matter of just around 10 minutes.  Leaving a window cracked does not do enough to keep your pet(s) safe.  The study I linked to above concluded that keeping a window cracked has very little impact on the internal temperature of a parked car.

dog hot car safetyDid you know that in some US states it’s even illegal to leave your pet unattended in a vehicle?

Some places also have laws allowing citizens, law enforcement agents, or both to lawfully rescue a distressed animal, even if it means damaging a car.

But I’m preaching to the choir here, right?  I’m pretty sure most people who would spend their free time reading a pet blog wouldn’t be the type of people who would leave their pet alone in their car!  Perhaps more pertinent information would be…

What should you do if you come across an animal in distress inside a hot car?

  • Know the laws in your state, ideally ahead of time.  As I stated above, some states allow citizens to break into cars to rescue animals.  It’s important to note, however, that in other states you can be held liable if you damage someone’s car.  Some state laws only allow forceful entry to save an animal if all other options have been exhausted.
  • Write down any important information such as the car’s make, model, and license plate number, the condition of the animal inside, and the current weather.
  • If the car is parked outside of a business, ask an employee to attempt to page the owner.
  • If an owner cannot be quickly located, contact your local police precinct.  If you don’t know your local laws pertaining to animals trapped inside hot cars, ask the dispatcher for advice.  In most cases, they’ll probably have you wait near the car until an officer arrives to help.

These days, newer car models are being designed with features to potentially keep pets safer.

Tesla, for example, recently introduced “Dog Mode”, a feature.  It keeps climate control on for pets, and displays a message on the car’s touchscreen.  The message notifies good samaritans that the car is temperature controlled.  There are also a number of products popping up on the market, things like small, portable air conditioners, and battery powered fans, that could potentially help keep pets cooler in cars.

dog hot car safety

Personally I wouldn’t feel 100% comfortable trusting my dog’s lives to technologies such as these.  When we travel with Kit and Fen we make sure they’re never left alone.  Usually this means taking bathroom breaks (etc.) in shifts.  Or in some instances, just opting to leave them safe at home.

We always love to hear from our readers, comment below!  What are some things you do to make car travel safer for your pet(s)?  Have you ever encountered a situation when you had to help an animal trapped inside a hot car?

dog hot car safety

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Britt K August 21, 2020 at 6:39 pm

    It blows my mind that there are still SO many people that don’t seem to understand this. On one hand, I’d like to think that it should be common sense – however, based on how frequently incidents happen, it clearly isn’t… That’s why it’s SO important to start conversations like this one!

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 22, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      I was always so shocked how often I’d see dogs left in cars when we lived in the city, even in the heat of the summer. You’d totally think it would be common sense, but I guess not for everyone unfortunately. You’re right, that’s why raising awareness becomes so important.

  • Reply Jana Rade August 21, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    Such an important reminder. Hot cars are so dangerous to dogs. When it’s hot, Cookie only goes with hubby when he’s not going to leave or I’m gonna be in the vehicle.

    On hot days, Cookie still does get to go to dump garbage and get gas because that way she’s not alone.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 22, 2020 at 5:49 pm

      My dogs love running errands with us too! We also take them to the dump, the post office, stuff like that. Usually I make my partner run inside while I wait in the car with the dogs. They have so much fun going with us, it’s worth it having to wait outside with them.

  • Reply The Dash Kitten Crew August 21, 2020 at 10:36 pm

    I mean seriously? Leaving your dog in a HOT CAR? Which brainless idiot does that? Obviously someone who does not think, or care about their dog.

    Can I be mean and say I love it when the police break into cars to rescue dogs! They are real heroes.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 22, 2020 at 5:52 pm

      You’d be surprised how often I’d see dogs left in cars when we lived in the city! I mean, people leave their kids in hot cars sometimes too which is just horrible.

      The last time I had to deal with this there was a huge group of people gathered around the car when the police arrived. Right after the officer broke the dog out, the owner arrived. The crowd was booing her, I think she felt pretty embarrassed. I guess at least, hopefully, she learned her lesson. And thankfully the dog was ok.

  • Reply Angela Schneider August 22, 2020 at 12:33 am

    Now that I think about it, we haven’t seen any stories locally about dogs being left in cars. Washington has had some pretty strict laws on the books for a few years so hopefully people are starting to figure it out.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 22, 2020 at 5:54 pm

      Hopefully! I think a lot of states have started cracking down on leaving animals, and kids, inside hot cars, thankfully.

  • Reply Ruth Epstein August 22, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    I for the life of me cannot believe people still do it and speak out against it quite a bit, personally I do not care what my state law is if I see a dog in a hot car am calling the police immediately to save the dog and the people should be punished for abuse. Great post and reminder

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 22, 2020 at 5:58 pm

      I don’t see any issues with calling the police ASAP! If they’re the ones to break into the car then you wouldn’t be held liable either way. The state laws more pertain to if you decide to take matters into your own hands and break into the car yourself.

  • Reply Tiffany August 22, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    I didn’t know that about Tesla’s – how cool! My husband and I always try to take action when we saw a dog in a hot car, even if the windows are cracked. I’m always really shocked to see people still leave their dogs in cars – there’s so much info out there and so many stories make the news. I wish people could get on the same page with this. Thanks for continuing to spread awareness!

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 27, 2020 at 6:23 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I’m with you, I don’t understand how/why people still leave dogs in cars either. Isn’t that cool about Tesla’s? I personally still wouldn’t trust it for long periods of time, but maybe it would be ok for a quick bathroom break or something like that.

  • Reply Dorothy "FiveSibesMom" August 23, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    GREAT post to remind folks to not leave their pets in cars in the warm/hot weather! I personally have not had to save one, but have shared so many stories of ones that had to be, and just a recent one where a police officer had to smash out a window to save a puppy left in a red hot car! I cannot believe that this is still happening after all the information about how hot a car is (even on a warm day) I’d like to take this blog post and put it on every car window as a reminder! Personally, I leave my FiveSibes Wolf and Bandit home, safe and cool in the a/c!

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 27, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I’m with you, I’d much rather leave Kit and Fen home where they can be comfortable and safe. I don’t know how people can leave their dogs in their cars even when it’s not hot, I’d just worry the whole time I was gone! Thankfully I haven’t seen any dogs left in cars since we moved but I actually came across it quite often in the city. I always felt so bad for the poor dogs. It made me wonder how well cared for were they if they’re owners didn’t even think to take them out of a hot car in the summer.

  • Reply Beth August 24, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    It is crazy to think that people still don’t understand how hot a car can get in a short amount of time. I can only assume that the people who do it, are on their first dog and never paid attention to previously because it didn’t apply to them. Luckily, it seems like people in our area understand it, we never see dogs alone in cars in the parking lot during the summer.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 27, 2020 at 6:30 pm

      That’s good! Maybe it’s finally starting to sink in. You’d think, even if they didn’t have dogs before, they would have seen stuff about it on the news or something. You’re right though, it is surprising how quickly a car can heat up even when it’s not all that hot outside. Maybe that message doesn’t get across to some people.

  • Reply Emilia August 24, 2020 at 8:20 pm

    Now I’m intrigued about the window AC. I have cooling mats and battery op/usb fans and ice filled bottles to keep my cats cool when we travel. I’m very aware of how quickly a car can get hot (or cold.)

    I normally have someone to travel with me and we potty and eat in shifts. But sometimes I have to go alone and I’m always scared some well meaning nosy person is going to bust out my window and find my comfortable cat wondering what the heck is happening – or let him out. I’ve left a note on the dash before too.

    Call the police, don’t bust out windows. And don’t count on stores to do it for you (people used to expect us to do it all the time when I worked in the pet store.)

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 27, 2020 at 6:45 pm

      I came across a few window AC units for cars while I was researching! The ones I came across that were already on the market seemed to be solar powered. I didn’t research them too in depth, though, so I have no idea how well they actually work.

      I know what you mean – I’ve talked to dog owners with the same concerns as you. I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable leaving Fen in a car alone, no matter the weather, because if someone broke into our car to rescue him, whether he needed rescuing or not, he’d do everything in his power to get away from them.

      I’d say, if you really have to leave the car unattended for a short time, put some type of notice on your windows or the dash. I’ve heard before of people putting their cell phone number so, if someone is concerned, they can call or text before even thinking of resorting to breaking into a car or calling the police.

  • Reply Sweet Purrfections August 24, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    I live in the South, so we have hot temperatures most of the year. We also have a lot of people with dogs. I get so frustrated when I see someone who’s left their dog in the car. The last time I saw it, I was getting ready to call law enforcement when they drove up. People think that if they crack a window, the dog will be okay inside.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack August 27, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      When I wrote this I totally didn’t even think that, for some people, it’s hot all year round! I’ve always lived in areas of the country where we get all 4 seasons, and it’s quite a bit cooler in 3 of them. I wish people would understand that cracking a window really isn’t enough.

    Leave a Reply