Happy paw-rents love to bring their pets wherever they go. Fortunately, several outdoor restaurants, stores, and other areas have made it easier for you to tag along with your pup.
However, some locations (like the Hoover Dam, which I found out the hard way) restrict pets from being on the premises. Which begs these questions…
- How can I leave my dog in the car safely?
- If you enjoy a ride with your dog, and you make a stop, should you leave them in your car?
- If you do, how long can you leave them there?
- Does that state you’re in even permit you to leave a dog in your car?
As a dog owner/lover, you have to know the answers these questions.
Is it legal to leave your dog in the car?
About half of the states in this country prohibit leaving dogs, cats and other pets in parked cars unattended.
Most (be sure to read the full law) of the laws have 2 main contentions:
- The vehicle must be parked.
- You cannot endanger an animal’s life or expose them to imminent threat. Some statutes leave this open ended, others specify extreme hot or cold temperatures or inadequate ventilation or water.
If law enforcement bodies find anyone breaking these rules, that person could be charged with animal cruelty.
In areas where the state has no laws regarding leaving pups alone in vehicles, city governments and municipalities may formulate their own standards.
To save you time, we’ve linked to the applicable law for each state regarding leaving your dog in the car. If there is no link to the state, then there is currently no law we were able to locate (that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; we do our best to keep it updated).
State Laws for Animals Left in Parked Vehicles
Is it okay to leave your dog ALONE in the car?
We’ve covered the legality, but should you really leave your dog unattended in the car?
The temperature should be number one factor to consider before you leave your dog in the car alone. This should be followed by the time you will be away.
Studies have revealed that a car left in extreme temperatures can freeze or become scorching hot in a short period of time. It doesn’t matter even if you crack the window.
Check out these stats:
- When the temperature is at 70 degrees Fahrenheit, in 10 minutes your car will have heated up to 89 degrees and 104 degrees in 30 minutes.
- When the temperature is at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, your car will heat up to 99 degrees in 10 minutes. In 30 minutes, it will heat up to 114 degrees.
- At 95 degrees Fahrenheit, your car will heat up to 114 degrees in 10 minutes. At the same temperature in 30 minutes, your car will heat up to 129 degrees.
Here’s a cool little table by the American Veterinary Medical Association that lists estimated vehicle interior air temperature over time.
As your car heats insides, the harder it becomes for your dog to breathe. So if you have locked your car with hot air only available to breathe, they can’t keep cool. As a result, heatstroke is likely to happen.
On the other hand, even if your dog likes to play on cold days, the situation is different when they are in a stationary car. They are more vulnerable to chilly weather while in a stationary car.
Can you break into someone’s car if you see a distressed dog?
This depends on the state or local laws, but in some cases it IS legal.
For example, here’s the statue in Florida (where I’m currently living):
“A person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage to the motor vehicle if…”
The statute goes on to qualify the specific conditions.
Regardless, we recommend you first alert the local police if you think a dog is in danger and follow their instructions, less you end up like this Ohio man cited for what he believed was doing the right thing.
What should you do if a dog shows sign of heat stroke?
Heat stroke is caused by extreme hot temperature. As a result, it can lead to brain damage, blindness, hemorrhages, organ failure, seizures, convulsions, and death.
If the skin of your dog turns red, you spot the onset of diarrhea, rapid panting, nausea, and vomiting then it requires immediate attention. Quickly get him to a cool area or a place near the fan. Cover him with wet towels soaked in water. This will help cool his body temperature.
Alternatively, look for some shade and a hose if you don’t find a cool place or a fan. Spray on the back of the dog’s head and neck.it will help to lower his temperature.
Massage the legs to help in blood circulation. Above all, allow your dog to drink as much water as he wants. You can add a tiny bit of salt to his water to restore the lost minerals.
While you’re doing the above have someone call your local pet ER and determine if you need to follow-up with a vet immediately or possibly just for a check-up later in the week.
4 Tips/Tricks If You Must Leave Your Dog Alone in the Car
If you must leave your dog unattended in the car, below are some tips you need to consider.
1. Park your car in a shady spot.
If for some reason you can’t, consider keeping a “car tent” or “car shade” in your car.
2. Be aware of the temperature at all times.
Don’t leave your dog alone in the car when the temperature is too hot (as discussed above) or too cold. Invest in a smart temperature sensor that can be monitored from you phone or use the built in temperature monitor that some smart collars have.
3. Leave a bowl of water with your dog. Water will help to keep your dog cool.
4. Keep your windows or doors vented (safely).
We’re not suggesting you leave the window down or door open. In fact, don’t do that. But there are products specifically made so the window or doors can be vented.
- BreezeGuard – essentially a window vent that sits in place of the window itself.
- Tail gate lock – a bar lock that allows the tailgate to vent open a few inches.
Remember dogs are creatures of habit. They depend on you to have a good time. If you are on a ride with your pup, give him regular potty breaks. Get him out of the car to stretch and sniff. Grabbing a bite is also important as it is to you.
Here’s a pretty cool infographic that will help you remember most of what we just covered above:
Bringing The Heat created by FIGO Pet Insurance.