With the dog days of summer officially here, there will most likely be a number of clueless, sometimes cruel people who leave cats, dogs, and other animals inside hot vehicles. As many hopefully know, leaving animals in hot vehicles—even for just a couple of minutes with the windows slightly down or in a shaded spot—is akin to leaving human babies in there alone. Per PETA, vehicles can easily hit temperatures of 100 or 102 degrees Fahrenheit on 78-degree days in a few minutes. If it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit outside, temperatures inside a vehicle can reach 160 degrees, making it an actual death sentence for living creatures.
Depending on your town, county, or state, Good Samaritans attempting to save pets from hot vehicles can be praised as heroes (which they are) or they could face charges like criminal trespass or even breaking and entering. It’s certainly wise to learn the laws of your area regarding animals left in cars, but there are also a few steps you should take when you see an animal trapped in an increasingly hot vehicle.
Take Down the Vehicle’s License Plate Number, Make, and Model
If the vehicle is parked near or next to a building, walk inside and ask for the front desk to page or in any way contact the vehicle’s owner. Security guards, receptionists, and similar attendants are typically cooperative whenever asked to contact someone.
Locate a Nearby Authority Figure
Whether it’s a security guard, parking lot attendant, or police officer, ask if there’s anything they’re allowed to do to remove the animal from the vehicle, even if it means calling up someone higher in the chain of command. For many states and counties, it’s illegal to leave animals in hot vehicles, and they’re allowed to break windows to remove the animal.
If There’s No Other Authority Figure, Call 911
Oftentimes, police officers have the authority to act in this situation if no one around you is being proactive about removing the animal from the car. They not only can rescue the pet, but they can also file charges against the animal’s guardian, depending on the area’s laws. You might also want to find others who witnessed the pet’s distress to possibly testify against the irresponsible guardian.
Call Animal Control If Police Respond Too Slowly
If the authorities are responding too slowly, you should try to contact your area’s Animal Control Center, and make sure you tell them it’s an emergency.
Look for Symptoms of Distress
Heatstroke symptoms can be seen through a car window, and they include restlessness, heavy panting, lethargy, an abnormally dark tongue (though breeds like Sher-Pei’s or Chows have dark tongues in general, so as to avoid confusion with heatstroke), bloody diarrhea, and a loss of coordination. If you see these signs, the pet is in serious distress and requires immediate help.
If the Authorities Haven’t Responded Yet, Try to Open the Door
If you try opening the door and find the car unlocked, remove the animal and get them into a cool environment, preferably somewhere air-conditioned. Give the animal cold water to get their body temperature down while still trying to locate their guardian. It’s also wise to call a local veterinarian to get the animal checked or to get further instructions regarding how to help the animal while waiting on the guardian to come and take over.
Reporting Animal Abuse Could Save Lives
When you see animals trapped in cars, the mantra, “If you see something, say something,” is a smart one to live by. While they might not have meant to harm their pet by leaving them in the car, this seemingly inoffensive action can cost the pet their life. It’s always best to leave your pet at home inside a cool, air-conditioned house rather than making them run errands with you.