What to Do if You See a Dog in a Hot Car | PetFirst
Pet Care & Health

What to Do if You See a Dog in a Hot Car

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
4 years ago

A recently-passed law in Ohio allows passers-by to break car windows to rescue children and dogs from hot cars. But many people may not be sure what to do in the event that they see a dog locked in a car in sweltering summer temperatures. Breaking the window could lead to criminal prosecution in some cases, but leaving the dog to succumb to heat stroke is not an option. Here’s what how to responsibly respond if you see a dog in a hot car this summer.

Call Local Police or 911
The first thing you should do is call local law enforcement or 911 and inform them of the situation. Even if they can’t send an officer right away, informing them that you’ve found a dog trapped in a hot car establishes a record of communication and due process that may help your case in the event of a lawsuit (remember, we’re not lawyers, so we’re not offering legal advice, just relating what we’ve observed in similar situations).

Check for Signs of Heatstroke
Inform the police or 911 dispatcher of any signs that the dog may be experiencing heat stroke. These symptoms may include:

  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lethargy
  • Lack of coordination’
  • Vomiting
  • Unconsciousness

If Safe, Try to Find the Car’s Owner
Don’t leave the site of the vehicle, but make an attempt to find the car’s owner. If the car is parked in a commercial parking lot, send a friend or passerby into the store to ask the store manager to announce a description of the vehicle. If you cannot locate the car’s owner and the dog’s condition continues to deteriorate, you may need to consider breaking the window.

If You Need to Break the Window…
Here’s where it gets tricky. Breaking a window or picking a lock on a car door could be criminal offenses. But your conscience demands you help the dog. In this case, take the following steps:

  1. Inform the police of your intention. If they cannot send an officer in time, make sure to inform the police that you intend to break the window to spare the dog from heat stroke.
  2. Take photos or video. Use your phone or tablet to take photos and video of the car, the dog inside, and its condition. This can be used to demonstrate why action was necessary to save the dog.
  3. Get witnesses. If there are people nearby or others who have witnessed the situation, take their names and contact information. You may need them to corroborate your story.
  4. Use caution. Cover your arms, face, eyes, and hands as much as possible before breaking the window in order to prevent injury to yourself. Use a heavy, blunt object to break a window opposite the dog’s location (e.g., if the dog is in the back passenger side, break the front driver side window).
  5. Remove the dog and provide cool – not cold – water. Move the dog as quickly and safely as possible to a cool location. Douse him with cool water and give him some to drink as well. Cold water may send the dog into shock.

Don’t Leave the Scene
If you’ve broken a window and removed a dog from a hot car, do not leave the scene until police have arrived and taken your statement.


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