You park at the grocery store to run in for some milk. You happen to look in the car next to you and you see a dog inside. It’s 80 degrees outside. The windows may or may not be cracked. The car may or may not be in the shade. The dog may or may not look in distress. What do you do?

When I see a dog left in a car in the summertime, I get immediately angry. But I also get worried. What if I do nothing and that dog dies? What if I do something and it’s the wrong thing? Will I get into trouble for what I do? Ultimately, the animal’s (usually dog’s) well being takes precedence!

Pets in hot cars can suffer organ damage or even death. In 80 degree weather, a car can reach 99 degrees in just 10 minutes! (see chart below) Though it will take time that you had not anticipated needing, taking the following steps can save a pet’s life!

WAYS TO HELP A PET LEFT IN A HOT CAR:

  • Record the car’s make, model and license plate number. Request that customer service departments of nearby businesses make an announcement to find the car’s owner. Rather than leaving the dog, ask a passer-by to go into the store(s) or call their customer service department(s) to request the announcement. Hopefully the person is simply unaware of the level of danger involved & will quickly return to their car.
  • If the owner isn’t found, call the non-emergency number for local police and report this as an emergency. Then wait by the car for their arrival. However, if you believe the animal is in imminent danger, you may have to act before they arrive.
  • Know the stipulations of Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law (see below) which allows passers-by to break car windows to rescue animals from hot cars.

Ohio’s Good Samaritan Law:


“A person shall be immune from civil liability for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing an animal from the vehicle if the person does all of the following:”

  • determines vehicle is locked and no other reasonable method to remove animal;
  • has good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm;
  • has made a good faith effort to contact the local law enforcement agency, 911, or first responders prior to entry;
  • makes a good faith effort to place a notice on the vehicle's windshield with the person's contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the animal, and the fact that the authorities have been notified;
  • remains with the animal in a safe location until law enforcement or emergency responders arrive;
  • used not more force to enter the vehicle and remove the animal from the vehicle than was necessary under the circumstances.

If you must break a window to save an animal’s life:


PLEASE BE AWARE AS YOU PROCEED, A SCARED DOG CAN BITE.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

What to do once the dog Is out:


Dogs don’t sweat. Rather they pant to cool their bodies. Pay attention to the speed of their panting as an indication of when they are beginning to cool off. They must cool off slowly.

  • Take them into air conditioning or into the shade
  • Pour water around their head, neck, in their groin, on their paw pads
  • Apply alcohol to their paw pads
  • Offer them water to drink
  • Get them to a vet ASAP

For further information
PetHelpful: What to Do If You See a Dog in a Hot Car

For information on legal issues around rescue (including individual state statutes)
Michigan State University College of Law: Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles