Good Samaritan Laws: You Might be Within Your Rights to Save a Dog From a Hot Car

​Good Samaritan Laws: You Might be Within Your Rights to Save a Dog From a Hot Car

Every year, thousands of dogs die from heatstroke after being left in a hot car for too long. Unfortunately, “too long” is much shorter than what most people think. Many pet owners will leave their furry friends in the car for “just a minute” while they run into a convenience store to grab a few items and come out just minutes later to discover that their pets have passed. This is not an over-exaggeration. Heatstroke can happen in minutes, and while there aren’t any official statistics on the number of pets that die in cars each year, nationally publicized stories have indicated that such tragic occurrences are becoming much more frequent. These stories also indicate that they are occurrences that can be easily avoided, especially with good Samaritan intervention.

Vehicle Temperatures Rise Quicker Than You Think

The inside temperature of a vehicle can rise as much as 20 degrees in 10 minutes. Within five more minutes, the inside temperature can rise another ten degrees, and so forth. Depending on the outside temperature, a dog may suffer from heat exhaustion, and then heat stroke, within a matter of minutes.

The Veterinary Clinic put together a chart to help pet owners understand the seriousness of leaving their furry friends in vehicles on hot days. The chart indicates that even when the outside temperature is just a tepid 70 degrees, the inside of a vehicle can reach 89 within 10 minutes and a startling 104 within 30 minutes. Within one hour, the average vehicle’s temperature rises by 43 degrees.

Five minutes is too long to leave a pet in a hot car. 10 minutes can be fatal.

Leaving Windows Cracked Doesn’t Help

What if I leave my windows cracked? you may wonder. Experts say doing so doesn’t help. A study conducted by RedRover indicates that the effect is more or less the same even with windows open. Within the first 10 minutes, temperatures can rise as much as 15 degrees. Depending on the time of day and the outside temperature, the inside temp of a vehicle can rise as much as 18 degrees within the same amount of time. Leaving windows cracked open for dogs does not make a difference, but pet owners assuming that it does has resulted in the death of thousands of innocent canines each year. 

Humidity and Heat Are a Deadly Combination for Dogs

If you live in a humid environment, you know better than most how oppressing the heat can feel on a day that’s temperature would otherwise be quite refreshing. For instance, the average annual relative humidity across the U.S. is between 53 and 91 percent. If you were to take the average of those two numbers, you would get an average relative humidity rate of 72 percent. The U.S.’s average summer temperatures is 71 degrees.

So, say that someone left his or her pup in a vehicle on a day that was a cool 71 degrees. The humidity index read 72 percent. For most humans, the temperature would feel 10 to 15 degrees hotter, but for a dog, it would feel 72 percent hotter, meaning the temperature would feel like 122 degrees. Heat and humidity are already a dangerous combination for canines, but for canines who are stuck in vehicles, it can be deadly.

Heat Exhaustion and Dogs

Heat exhaustion occurs relatively quickly in dogs, and at relatively mild temperatures. For us humans, an 83-degree day is considered perfect, but at that temperature, a dog’s core body temperature approaches a dangerous 106 degrees. At this point, heatstroke can occur, and it can quickly become fatal.

When heatstroke occurs, a dog might begin to pant and drool. Some dogs will exhibit vomiting, weakness, seizures and eventual collapse. Depending on the breed of dog, heat stroke can occur at even lower temperatures and at a much faster rate.

​YOU Can Help Prevent Canine Death Due to Heatstroke

​If you see an animal cooped up in a hot car, you may be within your legal rights to take action. While state laws vary, all but two (New Jersey and West Virginia) make it legal for either public officials or good Samaritans to take matters into their own hands—even if that means breaking a window. The following states allow only public officials (law enforcement or humane officers) to take drastic measures to rescue an animal:

•    Arizona
•    California
•    Delaware
•    Illinois
•    Indiana
•    Maine
•    Maryland
•    Massachusetts
•    Minnesota
•    Nevada
•    New Hampshire
•    New York
•    North Carolina
•    North Dakota
•    Oregon
•    Rhode Island
•    South Dakota
•    Vermont
•    Virginia
•    Washington

Some states allow good citizens to take matters into their own hands. Those states are as follows:

•    Arizona
•    California
•    Colorado
•    Florida
•    Indiana
•    Massachusetts
•    Ohio
•    Tennessee
•    Vermont
•    Wisconsin

Each of these states grants civil and criminal immunity for “breaking and entering” to the person who smashes a car window for the purpose of rescuing an animal. Alabama has a “hot car” bill pending that will make it legal for people to rescue animals from hot cars once passed. Some states grant such immunity only for certain animals:

•    Colorado, Maryland and Minnesota allow individuals to rescue just cats and dogs.
•    New York and Virginia allow citizens to rescue any type of companion animal.
•    South Dakota provides for the rescue of cats, dogs and other small animals.
•    Indiana, Florida and Wisconsin allows for the rescue of any domestic animal.
•    Indiana and North Carolina simply have livestock exemptions.
•    Nevada law provides for the rescue of any domesticated companion animal.

Once you remove a dog from a hot car, look out for signs of heatstroke. Those include the following:

•    Panting
•    Restlessness
•    Thick saliva
•    Bloody diarrhea
•    Lack of coordination
•    Dark tongue
•    Rapid heartbeat
•    Fever
•    Vomiting
•    Lethargy
•    Excessive thirst and lack of appetite

If an animal demonstrates any of these signs, get him or her out of the heat and into an air-conditioned space right away. Provide the animal with water to drink and, if possible, spray the animal down with cool water. If you can take the animal to the veterinarian, do so.

At Smart Healthy Dogs, we are animal advocates. If you’re reading this, you likely are too. In addition to helping other dogs, you can help your own pup by supplementing his or her diet with Total Pet Health Pet Supplement. Find out more about and why your pet needs it by visiting our website today.