Think Twice About Leaving Dogs in Parked Cars

A floofy dog locked inside a car with the windows up

You’re driving in the car with your dog and realize you need to pick up a loaf of bread on your way home. Obviously you can’t bring your dog into the store, and you really don’t want to have to make another trip. 

It’s not too hot out” you reason. 

I’ll park in the shade.

I’ll leave the windows down-ish.

I’ll only be gone for a few minutes.”

Unfortunately for your pup, that quick errand can become a tragedy in as little as a few minutes. The team at Schertz Animal Hospital wants to shed some light on why leaving dogs in parked cars is never a good idea, regardless of the time of year.

Heat Stroke in Pets

Heat stroke in pets is defined as a life-threatening elevation in body temperature that most often occurs in hot weather. Dogs don’t sweat like humans, and their primary form of temperature regulation is through panting, which is much less efficient. Heat stroke can lead to multiple organ failure and death if not treated immediately.

Dogs in Parked Cars

It only takes a few minutes for the temperature inside a parked vehicle to rise to dangerous levels, even when the vehicle is parked in the shade, the windows are cracked, or the day is cooler. In fact, when a New Jersey nonprofit challenged 6 adults to stay in a hot car for 10 minutes for $100, not one of them earned the money.

Leaving dogs in parked cars is not illegal in Texas, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get into legal trouble for doing so. Leaving dogs in parked vehicles in hot weather is considered animal cruelty, and most pet owners will face fines and/or jail time for doing so.

Avoiding a Tragedy

What, if anything, can you do if you come across a dog trapped in a hot vehicle? Texas doesn’t have a “Good Samaritan Law” that allows you to break a car window to release a pet, but there are actions you can take. 

  • Take down the license plate number and the make and model of the car, and ask nearby businesses to page the owner. 
  • If no one comes, call 311 or the non-emergency police number, or local animal control.
  • Stay with the dog until help arrives.

If the dog appears to be in imminent danger, you’ll have to use your own judgement when it comes to a rescue. Understand that you will likely face criminal charges for breaking and entering the vehicle.

Protecting Your Pet

Fortunately, preventing heat stroke in pets is fairly straightforward. Besides never leaving dogs in hot cars, even for a few minutes, make sure your pet always has access to shade and fresh water, exercise them in early morning or even hours, and keep them inside with the a/c running during the hottest part of the day.

Please don’t hesitate to contact our staff for more information – and remember to stay cool!