Pets in Hot Cars

Sun Face

Given KOMO’s story today about the person lacking empathy who left their dog and pet pig (who was wearing sweatpants!) in a hot car,, I feel compelled to post this.

It’s been hot (over 90 yesterday) in the Seattle area, yet I’m still seeing people leave their pets in their cars. Just the other night at the grocery store I wound up calling the cops on someone who’d left their dog in a car with the windows rolled up– after I waited about 20 minutes to see if they’d show up. The dog had been in the car at least 15 minutes before that. The poor puppy was barking and panting and desperately trying to get someone to notice him. Per policy the store would not page the owner.

See for fliers you can print out to leave on people’s windshields (even though the police would probably frown on that). You can politely hand them to the owner too– being confrontational is less likely to get them to change their behavior anyway. I keep these fliers in my glove compartment, and I will ask the store to page the owner and in extreme cases will involve the authorities if an animal is in distress.

How does it hurt animals any less than it would hurt us? Even when it’s 75 degrees out, the temperature in a car can climb far higher in just minutes.


(This is my original post from July 9, 2010.)

After playing with the adoptable kitties in the pet store today, I went to the register to pay for my selections. A chinchilla pulled up behind me, crashed out in his cage, oblivious to the commotion I’d walked into. The chinchilla’s owners had brought him to the store so he could enjoy the air conditioning.

As I tuned in to find out why the two checkout lines were held up, I soon released why no one cared about that. Someone had left a small dog in a blazing hot car outside.

The temperature is well over 90 degrees today, and the dog’s owner had left it in their gray Oldsmobile with a back window cracked only a few inches. In these conditions, the interior of that car could have easily reached 130 degrees in minutes, and kept rising.

One man said that the dog had been in there so long that he wasn’t going to wait for the police; he was going to break the window and get the dog out himself.

A cashier asked the owner of the car to come to the front of the store. There was no response.

In the meantime, a woman had walked through the store next door trying to find the dog’s owner, and left a safety tip from the Humane Society on the car’s windshield.

Somehow the first man got his arm in through the window and opened the back door. The curly-haired little dog was thrilled to be released from its makeshift oven and dive into a bowl of water.

I told people to look for an elderly person. Although the group of us wanted to give the dog’s owner a piece of our minds, it wasn’t likely someone we’d yell at.

Believing that there should be mandatory driver’s license testing past a certain age, I’d noted that the vehicle was parked haphazardly several feet from the curb in a disabled parking space.

The police showed up shortly after someone called 911. They talked with witnesses, who said that the dog had been in there at least 15 minutes.

The owner still hadn’t shown up.

The jubilant, thirsty little dog loved the attention. He didn’t have an ID tag so we didn’t know his name. The metal ring holding his rabies and license tags was bent and possibly poking him in the neck. A pet store employee said she could get him a better one.

Super happy curly doggie and I finished playing so he could be taken into the air conditioned store until his owner was found. For him that was probably like being taken into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Rawhide, chew hooves, and biscuits, oh my!

I went to my car and was wheeling the cart back to the store when a woman called, “the owner’s there.” I looked over to see officers talking to an elderly woman who had been in a store farther down the strip mall.

So this story had a happy ending. The dog was removed from the car before it got too sick and died, and the owner was surely briefed on the dangers of taking your dog shopping on the day a new heat record was set.

I’m always impressed by how total strangers can come together in seconds to help an animal or person in distress. Everyone took a role and the dog rescuer said he’d even pay for the window if it meant saving the dog’s life.

Amazingly, this is the second time I’ve witnessed this in the past few weeks.

When I went into a library on a rare sunny day in June, I saw a little poodle locked in a gold Toyota with the windows up.

“You’re kidding,” I thought. I told myself I’d give it a few minutes and then seek out the dog’s owner. If they were just running in and out to return a book, I wasn’t too worried.

But no one exited the building.

In the meantime, library employees had noticed that the dog was in distress. They called for the owner of that car to come forward. The owner was a man with headphones on who was using the library’s internet. His wife was elsewhere in the library.

When they took the dog out of the car, library staff gave the relieved dog a bowl of cold water. The owners seemed genuinely concerned and kept the dog in the shade for awhile. Hopefully this was the wakeup call they needed.

To me, not locking your pets in a car on a hot day is a no brainer. Zip yourself into a fur coat, lock yourself into your ride, and see how long you can stand the rising temperatures.

In Washington, if the temperature is above 70, people generally leave their pets at home if they’re not going directly from point A to point B. But there are a few who put their pets’ lives at risk by being oblivious to their needs.


Enough said.


If you think dogs can’t count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them. -Phil Pastoret

©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

3 thoughts on “Pets in Hot Cars

  1. Sadly, this kind of tragedy happens all the time. Every year, dogs suffer and even die after being intentionally locked inside cars while their owners shop or run other errands. Thankfully the library employees alerted the owner to the condition of the poor dog.

    When it is 72 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can rocket to 116 degrees within an hour, even with windows cracked. Dogs can withstand a body temperature of 107 to 108 degrees for only a short time before suffering organ failure, brain and nerve damage — or even death.

    United Animal Nations operates the My Dog is Cool Campaign to let people know that leaving a dog in a car for even “just a few minutes” may be too long.

    To order or download educational fliers and posters, or to enter your zip code and find out if it is too hot to bring your dog in the car, visit:


Seriously, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s