The #1 rule of summer living is to never ever under any circumstances leave your pet in a locked car. And yet, each and every year in Minnesota and across the nation, dogs die because they were left unattended. It’s a tragedy, and it’s one that can easily be avoided — and you can help.
1. Studies have shown that opening windows doesn’t significantly help keep cars cool, so cracking a window (or all the windows) does not guarantee a dog’s safety.
2. Parking in the shade also doesn’t mean your pet will be safe. If it’s 80 degrees outside, it only takes ten minutes for a car to heat up to 99 degrees, and parking under a tree doesn’t change that.
3. Heat stroke can begin to set in when a dog’s body temperature reaches 104 degrees. A dog’s normal temperature averages 102.5 degrees — it doesn’t take long to gain that additional 1.5 degrees.
What You Can Do
We know, we know: you don’t want to meddle. But a good dog owner also doesn’t want their pet in distress, so you can and should take action to keep the worst from happening. After all, it’s possible that the owner has good intentions and truly doesn’t know about the harm of leaving a pet in a parked car — this is your chance to educate and possibly even save a life.
1. Take down the car’s make and model number.
2. If you’re in an area with neighboring businesses, pop inside each one and request that an announcement be made over the PA system so you can find the car’s owner. You can grab a security guard, a manager, or even a cashier — they’ll be able to help you connect with whoever’s in charge to get the announcement made.
3. If you can’t find the car owner this way, give a call to the non-emergency number for your local police or animal control and wait for them to arrive. They’ll handle it from there.
Want To Do More?
1. The Humane Society of the United States has a great flyer on the dangers of leaving your pet in a locked car. Print it out and distribute it.
2. Collect the numbers of your non-emergency police line and local animal control, and keep them in your glove compartment so you’re ready to help, should you ever need to — or just save them in your phone’s contacts. Give the numbers to your friends too, so they’re prepared to help as well.
3. Ask businesses in your community to post signs requesting that customers don’t leave their dogs in cars while they shop. Heck, better yet, ask businesses in your community to post signs that dogs are welcome in their stores, so that dogs can come into the air conditioning and do a little shopping of their own. (Fun Fact: Sidewalk Dog has a “Dogs Welcome” window decal we’ll send for free to any business who wants one — just have them send their mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can hook them up.)
4. Know the law. Minnesota is one of only 16 states in the nation to have a statute to protect animals locked in parked cars. It’s a 1988 law, and it reads as follows. Learn it, know it, and be able to speak to it if you meet with resistance:
346.57. Dogs and cats in motor vehicles
Subdivision 1. Unattended dogs or cats. A person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat’s health or safety.
Subd. 2. Removal of dogs or cats. A peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department of a political subdivision may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation of subdivision 1. A person removing a dog or a cat under this subdivision shall use reasonable means to contact the owner of the dog or cat to arrange for its return home. If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the dog or cat to an animal shelter.