On July 24, a new law goes into effect in Washington to protect pets from some of the dangers of being left unattended in a vehicle—whether that be excessive heat or cold, or lack of ventilation or water. Under the new law, police officers will have the authority to rescue dogs and cats from unattended vehicles and will not be liable for damages caused.
The conversation about leaving cats and dogs in hot cars is especially prevalent now, with record-breaking summer temperatures and the dangers of heat stroke in dogs on our minds.
Expert Testimony: Leaving Dogs in Hot Cars
Dr. Steve Weinrauch, Trupanion’s Chief Veterinary Officer, shared a few thoughts with us about the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars, and the benefit of this new law. Here is what he had to say:
“Almost every summer I unfortunately have to react to the heat stroke of a family pet who was left in a car. In spite of the best emergency care, these cases often lead to tragedy. Nobody thinks that it could be their family until it’s too late.
Bottom line— if you wouldn’t be comfortable in a parked car with the windows cracked, neither would your pet. Leave your pet at home.
In my experience, most people understand the consequences of leaving a dog in a car on a 90 degree day. It’s the 70 to 80 degree days that catch people off guard.
For example, a few years back, on an 80-degree partly sunny day I was called by a local business manager who asked that I check on a service dog in a car in front of her business. By the time the dog was removed from the car, his core temperature was 112. The normal range is between 99 and 102.5. Four hours and $5,000 later, the dog’s systems completely shut down and she died in the specialty hospital. I’m hoping that by discussing this now, someone can avoid the grief later.
If we are talking about what to do about heat stroke, it’s often already too late. The best ways to prepare for these cases are to avoid the situation and to get medical insurance for your dog or cat before something happens.”
States That Say No to Keeping Pets in Hot Cars
Prior to Washington, just 17 states have passed laws protecting dogs from being trapped in hot cars, and only 15 allow law enforcement to enter a vehicle. These states include the following:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
If you do see a pet left in an unsafe vehicle, there are a number of things you can do, like contacting the owner or law enforcement and staying with the pet until help arrives. If you live in one of the U.S. states listed above, keep an eye out for unlucky pets trapped in hot cars this summer, and help keep our furry companions safe.