Hot Car Dangers

May 20, 2016
Written by 

It's HOT outside. Guess how hot it is in your car?

Leaving a dog in a hot car is dangerous and often deadly.

United Animal Nations (UAN) is imploring pet owners to avoid leaving their dogs in hot cars this summer – a practice that can lead to serious illness and even death. “Often people leave their dogs in the car while they shop or run errands, but doing so when the weather is warm can literally be a death sentence for your pet,” said UAN President and CEO Nicole Forsyth.

Forsyth offered five reasons why leaving a dog in a hot car can be deadly:

  1. hot cars imageDogs are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness because they can only cool off by panting and through the pads in their feet.
  2. Even on seemingly mild days, an enclosed car can be deadly. In a Stanford University study, when it was 72 degrees outside, a car’s internal temperature climbed to 116 degrees within one hour.
  3. Enclosed cars heat up quickly. In a study by San Francisco State University, when it was 80 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car rose to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 109 degrees in 20 minutes.
  4. A dog’s normal body temperature is between 101 to 102.5 degrees; a dog can only withstand a high body temperature for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death.
  5. Studies show that cracking the windows has little effect on a car’s internal temperature.

Already this year, UAN has received reports of dogs like Snuggle, a Maltese/Lhasa Apso who was locked in a car while her owner visited a Tampa, Florida amusement park. When Snuggle was rescued, the temperature inside the car was more than 90 degrees and her core temperature was nearly 106 degrees. To learn more about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars, visit


What happens to dogs left in hot cars?

  • Exposure to excessive heat causes the body’s cells to stop working properly and release dangerous chemicals, which can lead to nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage and even death. Essentially, all of the dog’s organ systems shut down at once.

  • Signs a dog is suffering from a heat-related illness include:
    • Excessive panting
    • Excessive drooling
    • Increased heart rate
    • Trouble breathing
    • Disorientation
    • Collapse or loss of consciousness
    • Seizure
    • Respiratory arrest
What is United Animal Nations (UAN) doing to protect dogs from the dangers of hot cars?
  • UAN operates, a repository of free resources to help people spread the word about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars.
  • offerse educational materials, including:
    • “Don’t Leave Me in Here – It’s Hot!” fliers that can be left on windshields
    • Free downloadable posters that can be hung in store windows to remind customers not to leave their dogs in the car on a warm day.  
    • A weather forecasting tool that indicates if it is too hot to leave a dog in the car.
What should people do if they see a dog in a hot car?
  • If the dog looks distressed (see above signs of heat-related illness), call the police, the local animal control agency or 911 right away.
  • Leave your name and phone number with the person who takes the call in case the responding officers need more information.
  • Go inside the nearest business(es) and ask the manager to make an announcement.

Hot Cars are Death Traps for Dogs was originally published on May 18, 2010 by

Minnesota Statute: Leaving Pets Unattended in Cars Can Result in Petty Misdemeanor and Fine to Negligent Owner


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.

Subd. 3. Petty misdemeanor.
A person who violates subdivision 1 is subject to a fine of $25.

History: 1988 c 711 s 6

For more information on additional states who have laws to protect animals left in parked vehicles, visit Michigan State University's Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles.