Some states step up to prevent dog deaths in hot cars

By on May 26, 2016 with 7 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Hundreds of dogs each year perish from searing heat in unattended cars, left there by individuals who don’t understand what a risk to the animal’s life it is. With the car windows rolled up, even on a comfortable day, temperatures can spike in a flash and a life-threatening situation can develop. On an 80-degree day, it takes just 10 minutes for the car to heat up to 99 degrees. It doesn’t help much to roll down the windows, and animals don’t have sweat glands to release some of that heat.

Compelled to act by substantial numbers of animal fatalities, more than 20 states and many municipalities have made it a crime to leave an animal in a hot car as part of their anti-cruelty laws. Now, a growing number of states are fortifying their laws by allowing good Samaritans to enter vehicles to remove animals under certain circumstances.

In 2015, Tennessee made history by passing the first such law of its kind in the nation, and since then the states of Florida and Wisconsin have come on board. A similar bill has just landed on the Ohio governor’s desk, Michigan and Massachusetts are considering bills allowing the rescue of dogs from hot cars, and there is a bill in California that is moving ahead with strong bipartisan support. Virginia just passed a new law in 2016 giving civil immunity to first responders.

On Humane Lobby Day in California, supporters rally for HB 797, a bill that would allow good samaritans to enter a car to save an animal from extreme heat.

On Humane Lobby Day in California, supporters rally for AB 797, a bill that would allow good Samaritans to enter a car to save an animal from extreme heat.

Many states have good Samaritan bills addressing the dangerous problem of children left in hot cars, and we’re now catching up to make sure that pets don’t face that same threat. Intervention is carefully defined and kept as a last resort, only to be used when all other options have been exhausted and the animal is in visible distress. The bills also spell out what is to be done after an animal has been removed to ensure that emergency care is provided and that pets are returned to their owners appropriately.

Most people are aware of the problem, but often don’t realize that it only takes a few minutes for temperatures to mount and a dangerous situation to develop. Putting animals at risk of an agonizing and unnecessary death in a hot car is a problem we can all agree to prevent.

Pledge to never leave your dog in a hot car »

Companion Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Brenda Martin says:

    I need to understand this law….if a dog is in the car with the window rolled down is it against the law now….softer my visit to krogers Friday …I want to know what is right…the dog was in the suv for an HOUR…I know…just made me sick to see this and I did try to help…..

  2. Joanne boyd says:

    Create a poster for every business to put up, with temps in car after 5,10,15 minutes and a warning.

  3. Lisa Algee says:

    Here are the temperature differentials:

    Outside degrees F◦ Inside car degrees F ◦
    75 118
    77 123
    81 138
    90 143
    94 145

    I have a stack of fliers in my car that I put on people’s windshield if they have left a dog inside. I also write down the model, color, and license plate and have the manager of the store call it out over the speaker. If no one comes out after 5 minutes, I push the window down and get the dog out. I have a spare leash in my car. Then I call 911 and get the cops there to take a report. To me, this is animal cruelty and every state MUST have laws to protect any animal left in a car.

  4. Doris Muller says:

    After waiting for fifteen minutes by a car, with a dog inside, on a warm day, I took action by alerting the store security. Security called for help. Before police could get there, the owners returned to their car. They had the nerve to be insulted and offended that the public would interfere in their business. Recently, a friend had a like experience, except she went into the store and had the store attempt to alert the owners, they did not respond. When they finally returned to their car where a handful of people had gathered, the owner was disrespectful and offended that my friend would butt into “her business.”

    It is crucial for states to adopt laws that fully protect animals and their rescuers when the situations present serious risks and possibly death. Right or wrong, humans are notorious for behaving in an aggressive manner when they think others are interfering in their business, even in life threatening situations. When their actions are a cause for embarrassment, they would rather find blame with others than to admit to their failure or to their ignorance.

  5. Amber Andreasen says:

    The HOT CARS Act of 2017 has been introduced on the federal level to help prevent children, animals and vulnerable adults from being left behind in vehicles. The bill calls for technology to prevent any living being from being left in a car. To learn more about this legislation, visit

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