Too often we see negligent pet owners leave their cats and dogs in hot cars, locked up and suffocating to death. So I invited my friend Jesse (a car expert), to share his knowledge on what to do next time you find yourself in this situation. Hope you find it as helpful as I have!
As a vet tech (or any animal lover for that matter) you know how upset you get when you see dog in a hot car. But unfortunately you can end up facing criminal charges for trespassing or damages if you decide to break the window. So how do you save those helpless pets without getting arrested?
If you see a pet in a hot car, try these 10 measures first:
- If the dog is staggering or unresponsive immediate action is required. Other signs that you need to take immediate action are vomiting, diarrhea, bright red or purple gums. If the dog is still moving at a regular speed and seems mentally alert they aren’t in immediate danger
- If the window is cracked offer the dog a bottle or small bowl of water. Remember not to force them to drink the water as you don’t want any water going down their windpipe
- Call local businesses and get their managers or security guards to make announcements to find the car’s owner (you’ll probably need the brand, model and license plate number for the owner to be found)
- Call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and let them know about the situation. Stay near the car until either they or the owner arrives
- While you’re waiting see if you can find a piece of cardboard, towel, blanket or anything else you have on you to block some of the sunlight and slow down the rising temperature inside the car
- Keep track of the time you spend waiting so you have proof of roughly how long the dog was left outside
- Take photos or a short video/get another passerby to do so. This means you have evidence if the matter ends up in court
- Upload any photos you take to your Facebook/Twitter feed to search for the owner. This also provides evidence of what time you found the animal at and what time the owner returned at in case you need to go to court
- Insist that the owner takes their pet straight to the veterinary emergency clinic and even offer to call ahead for them so they know the vet is available
- Lastly, make sure you have local emergency numbers on hand in case you end up in this situation. Being prepared can make all the difference when you’re trying to save an animal’s life.
Know The Law
It’s also important to know the laws in your area. In most states and municipalities breaking into another person’s car is a crime even if you’re doing it to save a trapped pet. That being said, more and more areas are also instituting laws against leaving pets in hot cars. Research your local laws now so you’re prepared when you do actually see an animal trapped in a hot car.
If there are no laws in your area preventing people from leaving their animals in hot cars you can also rally to change this. Get in touch with local animal rights groups and local chapters of national groups to find out what they’re doing to improve laws protecting pets and how you can help. If none of the organizations in your area are targeting these laws you can create an initiative yourself and ask if they’re interested in partnering with you.
You can also save animals from getting stuck in hot cars by educating people about heat stroke. Most people know it’s possible for animals to get heat stroke in cars but not many people know how quickly or at what temperature it can happen.
Here are some important facts about heat stroke that you can share with pet owners to help prevent this:
- Cool outside doesn’t mean it’s cool in the car. When it’s a nice 72F out your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour. At 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside your car can hear up to 99F in 10 minutes.
- 80% of the rise in your car’s temperature occurs within the first 30 minutes after you walk away.
- Rolling down your windows won’t help cool down the car if you’re not actually moving.
You can also print and pass out copies of the Humane Society’s heat stroke prevention flyer. This is particularly useful when you do find an animal in a hot car and finally manage to track down their owner.
I’m Jesse VonAtha, by day I’m an engineer, by night I give advice on family cars on FamilyVehicleGuide.com. As a family man I know the choice of your family car can make or break any ride from A to B. I spend a lot of time researching all options, and share my findings so you don’t have to. Keep moving forward!