why you should never leave your pet in a hot car

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Aug 08 2014

I am always grateful when summer rolls around. I love hot weather and all of the things that go with it. Except for one: pets in hot cars.

Inevitably, at least once each year, I am faced with the dilemma of what to do when I see an owner leave their dog in the car (usually at the grocery store). Do I intervene? Do I look the other way?

This morning I read an article that mentioned the fact that 600 children have died since 1998 because they were trapped in hot cars. Forty-four of those children died last year. If 44 children are dying in a year, imagine where that puts the number of pet deaths.

When I read things like this, it makes me sad, because obviously no one intends for these things to happen. They are accidents. And accidents often happen because people didn’t know any better.

So, even though I’ve said it before, I’m going to say it again.


I struggle each year when I think about the needless deaths of pets, and I wonder what possesses anyone to leave their pet in the car. Maybe it’s because they don’t know this: It takes only minutes for a pet to die in a hot car.

Maybe these accidents happen because the owner just wanted to run into the store for one item. But then they ran into their neighbor and started chatting and lost track of time.

I will never forget a heartbreaking case I never even got the chance to see my very first year as a doctor. I took a frantic call from a woman who thought her dog might be dead. Chief, her beloved German Shepherd, jumped into the back seat of her car when she got home from the store and refused to get out because he had heard her say “ice cream” and thought they were going for a treat. She could do nothing to convince him that they were not, in fact, going for ice cream and he stood his ground in the back seat. She drove around the block and he still wouldn’t budge. So, she left him in the car while she went inside to put the groceries away. And she forgot about him. For 10 minutes. She returned to car to find him lifeless.

Ten minutes is all it took. And it’s likely he died several minutes prior to that.

Pets in hot cars make me very upset, because it leads to senseless death. If this blog is depressing, if it makes you sad, or if it makes you angry like me, DO something about it. If you see a dog in a hot car, call 911 right away. If you’re near a store, tell the manager to make an announcement to try to locate the owner.

And please, please, please don’t be a victim of one of these accidents. If it’s hot (or even if it’s just a little bit warm), don’t bring your pet with you when you run errands -- he’d much rather stay home on the cool sofa, anyway!

*Petplan is petitioning the White House to create a law to help stop pets from dying in hot cars. Your signature can pets get the protection they need and deserve! Join our Driven to Bark campaign by signing the petition and sharing the link with your friends now!