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Readers Respond: A parked car can be a deathtrap on a warm day

Responses: 71


It might be easy to look the other way. Stay out of other people's business. The owner must be coming right back to the dog in the car, right? Maybe not. Just how hot is it in there? Studies have shown that even on a "cool" day of 82F, the temperature can reach 109F inside a closed car in minutes.

Each year, animals die in cars. If you saw an animal left unattended in a car, would you call for assistance? Have you helped animals in this way before? Viewers say yes - they have helped.

Please post your experiences and tips here then print out flyers and posters to help spread the word. You may save a life.

How do you help?

No need

Leave your pet at home or prepare to have people address the situation. Today the weather was 80 degrees. I left my daughter in the car while I took out her stroller and the temperature in the car was already far too hot. This was after having the air on blast. I leave the grocery store and see a dog in a van, windows barely cracked, parked in the sun. I waited around until the owner came out because someone said they'd rather be talked to them have the police called on them. This guy was in my face in seconds. I just wanted to relay the stroller story and thus explain why I was concerned for the dog. Next time I'll just break your window, call the cops, and go about my business.
—Guest Me

Back Off

I appreciate those animal lovers looking out for the safety of dogs everywhere but do not jump to conclusions. Just because you walk into a parking lot and see a dog in a car on an 80 or 90 degree day does not mean that the owner has been gone for hours. I love my dogs and recently was called over the intercom of a grocery store for leaving my dogs in the car. I literally had been away from my car for 5 minutes and was checking out. People need to calm down. If you suspect a distressed dog, hangout for about 5 to 10 mins. See if the owners come back. Don't just immediately assume that the dog has been in the car for hours. Furthermore, I think many have lost sight that dogs are animals. They have not always had humans caring for them. What did the dogs do prior to having the luxury of air conditioning.
—Guest DogsAreAnimals


In Texas, it IS against the law to leave your pet inside a car with no a/c on when their is a certain heat index. CHECK THE HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE!! I get called often and make EVERY call. I have a laser thermometer and make several readings before I go into the store and start talking very loudly "who owns such and such vehicle". I have a zero tolerance and take this very seriously. Besides the tongue lashing you WILL get a citation and go see the judge! The fine is steep enough where you won't do it again. Thank god for people that care enough to report it to the authorities. These poor animals can't speak but I can and do!!! Please speak up when you see this and don't be embarrassed. It could be life or death for that poor animal that brings these ignorant people happiness!!!
—Guest Animal Control Officer

Help, but CYA

If the dog appeared to be in distress, I'd go to the nearest payphone (NOT use a cellphone), call the police, say I was breaking the window, do so, and leave.
—Guest nitroglycol

Serious just calm down

I was in Long Beach washington. It was 55 degrees out. We just got done running on the beach and the dogs just had water. I went to one of the gift shops in town for maybe 20 min and the windows were down a bit. Some crazy lady called the cops. It was not even close enough to be too hot for the dogs. The store worker and the cop both told me that it was silly the police were called. I got no ticket and no summons. In fact I was told by the police officer sorry I had to come out because I was called. I felt bad for him. He had so much better things to do. All that happened is I got a good laugh. The woman who called the police just wasted everyone's time. I am a huge animal lover. People need to calm down. I understand the concern but really? 55 degrees out and you call the police? Commen sence is seriously missing in far too many people today. I really hope that woman felt as stupid and silly and she made herself look. I don't know what is wrong with people today.
—Guest Dog lover

Don't jump to overreacting

My dog goes everywhere with me, every day. To work, home, gas stations, stores, friends houses, family houses. After driving for 20 minutes with my A/C on full blast I stopped at the grocery store a few blocks from my house to run in and get exactly 3 items. Since it was freezing cold in my car, and having open windows would let in the warm, humid air quite quickly, I left the windows up to keep the cold in. When I came out, a man started yelling at me about leaving my dog in the car. I said I'd only been in there a few minutes, he argued that he'd been watching my car for "10-15 minutes", insulting me, saying he felt sorry for my dog and my intelligence. I believe he tried to call the cops and took my license plate number. After deducing the time when I got back to the car versus the time I got there, I can say that I was away from the vehicle for 7 minutes, and a cold can of soda in my car didn't have any condensation. My dog was great. Don't assume we are all animal abusers please.
—Guest Mary

dogs dont sweat

Any temperature w/ dog in car with windows down/orcracked can cause a dog to go into distress, panting not due to stress from being away from owner, maybe that too, but due to their inability to sweat and handle the increasing heat even with windows cracked or down a little. They get heart conditions. I wish I was exaggerating. The temperature goes up in the car, trunk even with windows cracked in 9 minutes 10 degrees. You don't have to believe me and there are people out there who will make up stories to try to get their point across. I wouldn't do that. An instrument, kid, and dog - in a car period not a good idea. I had a violin in a trunk for a few minutes in 58-60 degree weather with windows cracked and the violin was hot when I came back and strings were loosened. I left my violin my car with same condition and windows cracked and a string broke in 15 minutes. Haven't tried with dog/kid, a trained police officer on cool day cracked windows/for short time, dog died, true stoy
—Guest barb


You would leave your dog in a car, even for 5 minutes, even with the AC blasting? How about your child? Would you do that?! Don't you DARE say they are different, because they aren't. Animals are living beings with feelings just like ours. How about you sit in a hot car alone for 5 minutes, see how you like it. If you wouldn't leave your child in there, don't leave your animal.
—Guest Psims

The real solution

The real solution is to allow dogs inside shops! I left my mini-fox terrier tied up outside a library in shade and with a water bowl and I was paged because she looked distressed. Of course she looked distressed! She wanted to be inside with me. She would certainly prefer, however, to be walked to where I go than to be left at home all day which would be the only alternative. I would request that people exercise a little bit of common sense about this issue. Dogs are not children! My dog has survived in my care for 13 years so I can't be altogether remiss in my treatment of her. I'm also a little surprised to read that some people routinely break into other people's cars. I would suggest that if you do that and you have misread the situation and the animal is not actually distressed, you could well be breaking the law. You could well face penalties yourself. I would certainly pursue you for damage to my car. The same goes for the person who apparently routinely puts stickers on cars.


I left my dog in a dark parking ramp in maybe 65 degree weather ( not sure the temp but the high was supposed to be 72 today and it's starting to look like it will rain). I left the windows up while I went inside an apartment to drop his friend back home after having just come from the dog park. I get back 5, MAYBE 10 minutes later and a woman said she had called animal control and they would've taken my dog if I hadn't arrived. Her argument was that my dog might suffocate. Really? Have you ever suffocated from taking a nap in your car? She told me not to have a nice day after I told her she should. Real friendly lady.
—Guest Maddy rose

Response to Hmmm...

You claim to always leave the A/C running when your pet is unattended in the car. Ever consider how fast the temperature will change should the A/C fail to operate (engine dies, belt breaks, etc.)?

Read it through, tell me if this is ok.

Ok I had my dog with me on my way to my house in another town, we stopped for lunch or breakfast in my case since I woke up late. We didn't want to leave the dog at the other house alone so we brought him with. When we stopped at the restaurant it was in the low 70s and we lowered all of the windows somewhat even raised the sun-roof vent. I know ya don't know how long someone is gonna be in there, but from what I could tell earlier when I waited with the dog in the car, in conditions exactly as we left him at the restaurant I was fine, not a sweat and no hazard to him what-so ever. He barks cuz he has separation anxiety so Im sure he was getting attention but is he still in danger. Once again, cool temperature almost room temp if I had to guess, windows open partially so as he cant jump out, and no hazards in the car. He is a lil beagle. Am I in the wrong for doing this on such a day. I figured for half an hour, maybe a lil more he would be fine. Im in NJ so legal views r want
—Guest Matt

If the "pro-community" store won't help

then what? Break the law and smash a window?!! I will agree, common sense is a good thing. But people in the parking lot have no clue as to what YOU, the animal owners, are going to be done. We can not read minds. Nor can you. If somebody calls the cops, they do not know if you had just gone in or had been in there for a long time. And they care about the animals. On a 70 degree day, maybe for a few minutes, but I would always use MY OWN COMMON SENSE and not combine trips when the well being of animals is concerned. Maybe if owners did that, fewer people would respond to the point that the folks around here start mewling about "use common sence" and the rest of the cant. There's only so much anyone can do. Most of us want to help, but each person has to do his own part as well. Don't leave animals in a position where people can PERCEIVE potential wrongdoing. Problem solved. Thanks to common sense.

Finding a Dog in a Car

I would immediatley call the cops and wait for them to give the owner a summons. Why do people have to take dogs out on such hot days. Leave them home and comfy.
—Guest Chris

My Call and Mine Alone

If I see a dog other critter locked in a hot car...I'll do as I see fit.
—Guest AnimalRightsNazi

How do you help?

A parked car can be a deathtrap on a warm day

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