We’re in the middle of the Dog Days here in the Northern Hemisphere. It feels fitting to share some thoughts about people who leave dogs in hot cars in the summer.
What You Should Know About People Who Leave Dogs in Hot Cars
Let’s start with the good news.
1. There are not many of them.
Really. I know it feels like you’re hearing many stories each day about dogs dying in hot cars while their people cluelessly shop, dine, or go to the movies.
No one is keeping hard numbers of how many dogs die in hot cars. Some reporters estimate thousands.
But do you know how many dogs die in car accidents? 100,000. And those are rarely if ever reported.
Many more dogs are killed in shelters.
Of course one pointless and preventable death is too many. So let’s see what else is true about people who leave dogs in hot cars.
2. Some of them know quite a bit about dogs.
Linda Wilson Fuoco of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette shared stories of a dog trainer, veterinarian, and several K9 police officer whose dogs died of hyperthermia in a car.
What? A veterinarian!?!
So knowledge isn’t always enough.
3. They love their dogs.
Yep, the folks whose dogs die in hot cars are not your typical abusers or nut cases.
They love their dogs. They enjoy their company. That’s why they take them along to do errands.
But people love their cars, houses, and boats. Love isn’t enough.
And that’s why one of my biggest interests on Something Wagging is the relationship between dogs and their humans.
People claim to love objects. But we empathize with those creatures we have relationships with.
4. If their dog is rescued before in extremis or dead, people react badly.
I can relate to a defensive reaction.
I remember, as a young woman, bumping a car in a parking lot. As the car’s owner had an anxiety attack in front of me, I became very defensive.
I shouldn’t have. It was my fault. I hit her car. Her reaction was extreme, in my mind. But I was still in the wrong. And embarrassed. Which is why I reacted the way I did.
I’ve worked hard to own up to my mistakes, apologize, and move on. But I’m not perfect.
And neither are some people mortified with embarrassment to find a cop and a crowd of spectators around her car thinking of her as a dog abuser.
There are also people who just hate being told what to do. By anyone. On any subject.
Usually I’d call them cats, two-year olds, or libertarians.
Don’t take them personally.
Their motto is “If someone wants to take my gun (dog, television remote, truck, Big Gulp, bacon strip, fill in the blank–they’re interchangeable), they’ll have to pry it out of my cold dead hand.”
You won’t get very far trying to persuade one of these folks they’ve done anything wrong. But I have a few thoughts on intervening when you see a suffering dog in a hot car.
Quick Tips For Dealing with Dogs in Hot Cars
- Know if your state has laws about dogs in hot cars. You can check out a table of laws that protect animals left in parked vehicles. Some states protect certain officials (including store security guards in some places) from prosecution if they rescue an animal in a hot car.
- Understand that you may be prosecuted if you rescue a dog from someone’s car. You might be willing to take that risk to save a life. But it is a risk.
- Keep water with you. I suspect the penalty for pouring water into someone’s cracked window is probably less than breaking the window with a brick and taking their dog. Of course, I’m no lawyer.
- Remember point #3 when you confront someone who has left a dog in their car. No one will respond to “You idiot. You left your dog in the car to die” by rethinking their actions.
- But you might get through to one or two people by pointing our your shared love of dogs and stating that you were sure they would want to know their dog was showing signs of distress while they were gone.
Luckily for me, I have not had to use any of these tips in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I saw a dog waiting in a hot car. Instead, let me leave you with a story about the last dogs I saw waiting in a car.
Dogs Left in a Hot Car Happy Ending Story
It wasn’t a terribly hot day. The cloud cover kept the sun from beating down on this summer day.
But I noticed something unusual as I rode my bike out of the grocery store parking lot.
A man perched on the corner of a truck’s tail gate. He had a bottle of water in his hands and a bowl. As I looked into the back dark corners of the covered truck bed, I saw two German Shepherds lying on some straw.
The man was talking to his dogs and asking them if they wanted a drink. They didn’t seem interested so he just sat there keeping them company while whoever they were waiting for did the shopping.
I assumed they were probably camping in the area. No campgrounds I know of allow you to keep your dogs there when you go off-site.
That was over a year ago and the last time I saw dogs in a vehicle on a summer day.
So maybe the word is getting out. People are learning. And hopefully, fewer dogs will die unnecessarily of heat stroke because of it.
Note: Thank you to everyone who shared the 10 Funniest Reasons to Not Let Your Dog Go Along in Your Car This Summer. Because of you hundreds more people clicked through to see Dr. Ernie Ward’s video demonstration of how hot it gets in a parked car. You’re awesome.
Your Turn: Have you dealt with a dog left in a hot car? What was your experience? Do you agree or disagree with my description of people who leave dogs in hot cars?