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Washington 18th State To Enact Law To Help Save Dogs From Hot Cars

| Published on August 17, 2015

On July 24, Washington was the eighteenth state to enact a law allowing law enforcement to remove an animal from a car without liability if they are in danger – 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.

Even at night it can still be too hot for your dog. Image source: @orinZebest via Flickr
Even at night it can still be too hot for your dog. Image source: @orinZebest via Flickr

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:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia

Your State Not Listed?

Contact your local government representative or see if there is a petition going already in your area. There are laws like this in 18 states now that could act as guidelines when pursuing a petition. Michigan State University’s Animal Law Center offers a great summary of these laws.

Leaving a window down does not mean your dog won't die of heatstroke. Image source: @MartinPettitt via Flickr
Leaving a window down does not mean your dog won’t die of heatstroke. Image source: @MartinPettitt via Flickr

Now that we’re officially in the dog days of summer, it’s more important than ever to leave your pet at home if you think you might have to leave them in the car. Even in the shade on a warm day, a parked car can reach dangerous temperatures in just a few minutes.

Related: Compare Best Pet Insurance in Washington State

Image source: Trupanion
Image source: Trupanion

Protecting Cats & Dogs in Hot Cars: A Veterinarian’s Perspective

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.”

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.

Click here for more tips on how to keep your pet safe in the summer months.

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