What to do if you see a pet stuck in a hot car

July 21, 2022 by PEMCO Insurance
dog-in-hot-car-(1).jpgWith 90-degree-plus temperatures forecast for much of the Northwest, the potential danger to pets left in hot cars is again sparking concern among animal lovers and law enforcement. Here’s what to know if you encounter an animal in distress.

How quickly can a hot car turn dangerous for a pet inside?

The Humane Society of the U.S. recommends you leave pets at home if you can’t take them inside with you as you run errands. On an 85-degree day, even with the windows cracked, your car’s temperature can skyrocket to 102 degrees in just 10 minutes. That can turn a convenience-store visit into a life-and-death struggle for a helpless pet.

But what should you do if you see someone else’s pet locked in a hot car?

The answer may not be as simple as it seems.

Is breaking a window the best way to help a struggling pet?

It may not be. Breaking a window to rescue the pet could expose both you and the animal to serious injuries from broken glass, plus you may risk a bite from an anxious dog trying to protect its territory.

There are also legal considerations:

  • Oregon’s Good Samaritan law protects people from civil or criminal liability if they break a car window to rescue a child or pet – provided they’ve first called law enforcement and have a “good faith and reasonable belief” that danger is imminent. They also must remain on the scene until law enforcement arrives.
  • Washington law also allows window-breaking, but protection from prosecution extends only to law enforcement or animal control officers.

If you encounter a pet in a hot car, the Humane Society suggests:

  • Write down the car’s make, model and license plate number.
  • Notify nearby businesses and ask them to make an announcement to alert the car’s owner.
  • If there’s no response, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car until help arrives.
If you believe you have no choice but to break a window to save the pet’s life, take an important step first. Use your phone to video what’s happening and show the animal’s condition (heavy panting, unsteadiness, glazed eyes). Providing the context for your decision may make a difference regarding any potential liability you may have for damaging the car.

Then, strike the corner of a side window just above the door lock (easier to break than the middle) using something pointed like a tire iron or a window-punch tool designed for breaking tempered-glass windows in an emergency. Choose the window farthest away from the pet. Ideally, you’ll be able to break just enough glass to unlock the door (reaching in with your arm wrapped in a cloth to protect it from the broken glass) rather than completely shattering it. 

What kind of emergency help does an overheated animal need?

Once the animal is out of the car, these steps can help it begin its recovery from exposure to excessive heat:

  • Move the pet to a cooler area.
  • Gradually lower its body temperature with a cool (not cold) bath or, if that’s not possible, use wet towels or drizzle water over its coat.
  • Offer cool water if the animal is alert and wants to drink.
  • Take the pet to a veterinarian for treatment.
Want to learn more about keeping your pets safe and healthy? Visit our Blog and search “Pet” for articles like Six tips to protect furry friends at home and away and Traveling with your pet.

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