May 28, 2014

Steps to Take to Save a Dog Locked in a Hot Car

Author: Celeste Glassman


What can you do when you find a dog locked in a hot car?

Warmer weather is approaching, finally! If the spring and summer of 2014 in Chicago is anything like last year, we will be seeing 90°F within the next month. With that said, most pet owners, and pet care professionals are on the look out for dogs that are locked inside of a car on a hot day. The feeling of dread can be overwhelming – knowing that a dog locked in a hot car can be a death sentence. We all ask ourselves, “What should I do? Do I break the window? Do I call the police? Do I try to find the car owner?”

Unfortunately, there seems to be no easy answer as the dog sits helpless in the car.

During warm weather a car can reach temperatures upwards of 120°F in a matter of minutes, even when parked in the shade. Dogs do not perspire the same way humans do. The only sweat glands a dog has are on the pads of their feet. If the air surrounding a dog is not considerably cooler than the dogs body temperature, heatstroke can occur. Signs that a dog may be suffering from heatstroke include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Excessive panting
  • Increased salvation
  • Bright red tongue
  • Red or pale gums
  • Thick, sticky saliva
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The Humane Society of the United States has some tips on what to do if you see a pet alone in a car during extreme temperatures. Take a picture or video of the vehicle and the pet inside. Alert the management of the store where the car is parked. If the owner does not return promptly, call local animal control or the police department immediately. According to Illinois state law, “No owner or person shall confine any animal in a motor vehicle in such a manner that places it in a life or health threatening situation by exposure to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold, without proper ventilation or other protection from such heat or cold.” (510 ILCS 70/7.1)

Keep in mind that approaching an unfamiliar dog or reaching into an open car window can be a dangerous situation. Only you can make the difficult decision on what to do if a dog is alone in a hot vehicle. Let’s all hope that these encounters will decrease as more people become educated on the harmful effects of leaving a pet locked inside of a hot car.

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