Home > Health Care - Dogs, Pet Safety, Pet Topics > Do you know which states have laws against leaving a dog in a hot car?

Do you know which states have laws against leaving a dog in a hot car?

oven_new1Even though it may not feel like it here in Minnesota, spring is coming, and with it comes warmer temperatures. Many of us already know that leaving a dog in a hot car is dangerous. We have all seen the stories that usually accompany this time a year… “Two dogs dead after being left in hot car“, “Police sergeant rescues dog locked in hot car“, “Police Are Cracking Down on Dumb Dog Owners in Heatwave.”

But did you know that in several states it is illegal to leave your dog in a car?  There are 14 states – Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia, that currently have statutes “that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle“.

The penalties range from monetary fines to being charged with a misdemeanor, and in some states, it even includes imprisonment. The Animal Legal and Historical Center website contains a list of the states with laws and what penalties apply. They even lay out what is allowed/not allowed in those states when it comes to rescuing an animal left in a car.

For instance, in Minnesota, the statute states:

“A peace officer, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation.

 A person removing a dog or a cat under this subdivision shall use reasonable means to contact the owner.

 If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the dog or cat to an animal shelter.”

Don’t see your state on the list? That doesn’t mean there are no laws in your state. Many local city and county governments have ordinances covering this issue. Owners may want to know this information, not only for their own benefit, but also for those situations in which they see another owner’s dog in distress and don’t know what to do. You can read more on this issue here.

Just as a reminder on how hot a car can get, I am sharing this blog post by my friend by Julie at The Daily Dog Blog. She has a cool infographic that you can print out and share with your friends. I’m thinking I just may make a few copies and keep them in my car so I can hand them out when I see a dog left in a car.

  1. April 21, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    Colorado isn’t on the list but I wish it were. I dispatch for a police department and during the summer I can’t even begin to count the number of times in a single day we get calls on people who’ve left their dogs in the car.

    Thanks for posting this! It’s a great awareness post.

  2. April 21, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    Ah, thanks Mel for sharing the infographic! I get stressed when I see a dog in the car even when it is only 65 degrees – cars can get hot so fast!! I hope we can get more states on that list!!

  3. April 22, 2013 at 3:36 AM

    We are never left in the car. Here it is not illegal but maybe it should be.Have a marvelous Monday.
    Best wishes Molly

  4. April 22, 2013 at 6:22 AM

    Yay for MN…good to know that it is the law!

  5. April 22, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    I would like to see those laws everywhere. I would also like to see more places you can take your dog inside with you.

  6. FletchsMom
    April 22, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    I keep copies of a poster published by the ASPCA in my car for that same reason Mel. I once stormed into a restaurant in Kansas City looking for the person or persons who left their black dog in a black car out front with only 1 window cracked about 2 inches IN THE SUN. Even though it was only about 68 degrees outside the car, that sun pounding down made that vehicle a convection oven FAST. I read them the riot act right there as their food was arriving at their table and threatened to call the police. Can’t cure stupid!

    • Jim mickelson
      September 15, 2014 at 4:04 PM

      So,just how hot does it get in a car when outside temp is 68 degrees and the owner leaves the window down 2 inches??? Do you really know?

  7. April 22, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    You would think every state would be on that list, however mine isn’t. I don’t believe Delaware to be pro animal rights anyway. Makes me feel ashamed. 😦

    • Mel
      April 22, 2013 at 10:40 PM

      I am so sorry to hear that Bren. You shouldn’t feel ashamed. I am sorry that they don’t have a law though.

      • April 23, 2013 at 9:37 AM

        Yeah, it is a major bummer. Animal rights are pushed heavily into our states government unfortunately. It takes us “small” people like myself that push and push to get their voices heard. 😦

  8. April 22, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    Good to know! Thanks for sharing this info. If only every state was on here!

  9. April 23, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Wow. I understand laws about leaving your dog in a hot car but laws against generally leaving your dog in a car? I don’t know what we would do. I like to take Chester and Gretel with me a lot (and we go on a lot of far-from-home-trips) and they love to go. A lot of times that means they get left in the car if I am shopping, in a museum or the like. I would never take them anytime I knew it would be hot and they would have to be left in the car though.

    • Jim mickelson
      September 15, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      I agree with you. I do the same and would never do it for very long and if it is summer temps

  10. April 27, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    Your idea about handing out the infographics is a great one! I’ve ran into dog owners that need friendly reminders every now and then!

    • July 3, 2014 at 9:43 PM

      Im 55b yrs old, grew up on a farm with 3 german shepards my whole life. Now i have a pit mix. I totally agrre with all these peple against leaving dog in car. But thats with windows up DA-Da. If windows are down 4 inches on 4 door its totally legal. Some nosie ass that dont know laws called cops on me. They came and said u are totally legal with windows down. They cant run air cond in their police cars for dogs becuz they would be comppletelyn useless in a police chase. Next time u see a police car with dog and u will notice all 4 windows open. In 1960s,70s,50s there was no air cond. People please think. U die and suffer if windows are up.. GOT IT

  11. Ben
    April 27, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I’m not sure if it is legal or not here in the UK, but I never do it!

  12. Erin
    June 23, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Ok there is a little dog in a jeep in Hannaford Parking lot in Waterboro who is probably dieing of the heat as we speak and my sister in law went in and told them and they said there was nothing they could do which is bullshit they can do something I know for a fact I told them I was going to call the police and a girl I spoke to said Go Ahead she must be heartless I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooo pissed if I was there I would get that dog out of the car one way another People Do not take your dogs to the storewhere the car is probably at least 100 degrees or more what the hell is wrong with people and this has been going on for at least 20 mins now this is in MAINE

    • Mel
      June 23, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      Ugh! This makes me so mad. I hope she called the police.

    • Melissa
      August 9, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      Good for you Erin. I live in N. Waterboro, ME and have called the police because a dog was left in the car. Make sure you block the owner in so they can’t take off before the police arrive. I went through the same thing with Hannaford – they don’t want to be involved, probably fearing they will lose the business. Take matters into your own hands and always call the cops!

      • Mel
        August 10, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        Good for you too Melissa!

  13. live4amor
    August 17, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    As a responsible dog owner myself, I am fully aware of my animals rights. I actually stumbled upon this article because I left my dog in our car-windows 3/4 down on a 62* day and someone called the police on me. This woman was waiting for me (after my 5min run into the store for spinach) and yelling and screaming at me when I returned. There was actually a breeze in the air and I felt underdressed. She was in my face and said she called the cops because it is illegal to leave a dog in a car under ANY circumstances. I told her that she was wrong which really sent her off the deep end. When the police never showed, I called them myself-in front of the woman. More or less to report her. They said they never received a call and that the woman was not correct in her assumptions. The law states-in MN.- that a dog or cat are prohibited from being:

    “Unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat’s health or safety.”

    Then it explains the rights of those allowed to rescue the animal as this article stated.

    Here is the link: http://animallaw.info/articles/State%20Tables/tbusdogshotcars.htm

    I only wanted to respond because I believe that if a owner is responsible and always has their pet’s safety as priority, there are situations where this is not detrimental to their health.

    I’m sure it was an unintentional act on the behalf of the author to omit that very pertinent detail. However, in doing so, it creates ill advised citizens and that does not benefit the animal or the owner.

    But by all means, rescue any animal that has been left in health threatening conditions. As with parents-just because you are a caregiver to another living being, doesn’t mean you are a responsible one. Those are the ones who need to be corrected.

    • elayne reynolds
      December 31, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      I agree with you completely. I am a certified dog trainer and spent years managing an animal hospital. I will be the first person to say that leaving any animal in a vehicle when it is warm out (even comfortable) make for the inside of the car to be much hotter and leaving an animal in a car when it is cold out (which can be extremely cold inside the car) is wrong on every level. Our pets health and safety is our responsibility as pet owners. If anyone sees a pet in a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation then they should contact the appropriate authorities to address the issue immediately. However, just because these laws are in place in some places (and should be in all places) does not negate our responsibility to use some common sense. Personally I don’t agree with leaving a pet in a vehicle for any extended periods of time regardless of the weather but when you see a pet in a car outside a corner store, gas station, bank etc. chances are EXTREMELY good that the owner is only going to be absent for a few minutes and many people travel with their pets and unless businesses are going to all allow pets inside (which won’t happen) then owners at times will need to leave their pets in the cars. My advise is this, never leave you pet unattended for more then a few minutes in a car, even if the temperature isn’t an issue, theft and injury is. So make your runs into the store/bank/etc. brief, crack a window and carry a flyer that you post when you leave your pet that you are a responsible pet owner and are only absent for a few minutes and that your pets safety and health are your priority. It is a sad and sobering time when laws have to be put in place to protect us from our own ignorance but equally as sad and sobering when we let these laws replace our own common sense and rational thinking.

  14. Mark
    November 23, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    Amen – to live4amor – absolutely right on> People calling the cops and its 50 degrees in the sun and the windows are open- its maybe 55-60 at most in the car. I’m very responsible with my dogs and they want to come along for the ride – believe u me….. This is crazy, now I can’t take them- U explain it to my little buddies…..

  15. May 14, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    You go into a business and LOUDLY announce someone in such n such car left their dog in a hot car! You also demand business use intercom. All else fails BREAK THE GLASS!
    TRUCK BEDS, SAND ans SIDEWALKS/STREETS ARE HOT! Do NOT walk your dog on them. YOU stand barefoot on it FIRST.

  16. Evy Gjengstø
    June 5, 2014 at 3:32 AM

    I can not find my Country about this law! Where is the list that all the state has such a law! I’m form Norway so My English is not so Good-:) practice are the key-:) Can anyone tel me who I can find out more! myebe a link or something !! Regards Evy Gjengstø

    • Mel
      June 5, 2014 at 7:01 AM

      I am sorry Evy, but don’t have one with laws by country.

  17. July 7, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    It is NOT illegal to leave a dog in a car in California as long as the dog is not in danger, and has adequate food, water, and ventilation. Check California Penal Code 597.7. I’ve been bringing my dog everywhere with me for five years, and I make sure to park in the shade, leave the windows wide open, and leave plenty of water (the doggie gets fed at home). You know where my dog spends most of his time in the car? On the dashboard or on the back shelf, watching the birds or taking a nap. And yet there are plenty of people who think they know a lot who are willing to call Animal Control. I spoke to a responding officer and he said I was doing everything right and the dog was fine.

    • Jeff
      July 25, 2014 at 6:54 PM

      Agree with Foodlestooks I just left my dog in my car for 5 minutes, before leaving I gave him water, the ac was on prior so it was nice and cool in my car and I left both windows open and car in shade and it was only 80 degrees (less in shade), yet in 5 minutes time a man came asking if that was my dog, not to give me a hard time but to tell his wife that he was right, that the dog was fine and that she was over reacting, and she was on the phone… to whom I do not know. I would take a bullet for my dog, I know when he is hot and I know 5 minutes in that situation is completely fine. Also this site is misleading, Maryland’s law is IF the animal is in danger. Understand me.. I adopted my dog knowing that I would have to spend $2,500 to get both his knees operated on, I adopted him, put him in for the operation and took a week off of work to be with him for recovery. I also spent $350 to have an eyelash removed that was growing in and not out. Point is, not all people do bad, people need to calm down and think, don’t jump to conclusion, give people a few minutes.

  18. Ellen
    May 6, 2015 at 3:19 PM

    Years ago I left my dogs in the car quite often in mild weather. It was not and is not illegal to do so in IL. I understand all the reasons people can give for doing this. However, one day when it was 56 degrees out I parked in the shade, left each of 4 windows down about 2″ and the moon roof 3/4 of the way open. A woman called the police on me. The police arrived and told her I had done nothing illegal. As they drove away the woman started screaming at me that, had she known that the police wouldn’t take the dogs away from me, she would have gotten them out of the car and I would never have seen them again.

    Dogs are stolen from vehicles everyday. Some are taken to be sold for research. Some are taken to be sold on Craig’s List for profit. Some are stolen because someone wants a dog and you made it easy for them to get yours. And, some are taken by people who believe you are horrible and they can and will take better care of your dog than you. They feel not like criminals but like heroes.

    My dogs were never in danger due to the weather conditions – but they were in danger when I left them in the car.

    • Mel
      May 6, 2015 at 3:36 PM

      It sounds like that woman was crazy. 56 degrees? That is someone who has taken things way overboard. Yikes!

    • April 29, 2016 at 3:06 PM

      This just happened to me. I left my dog in the car after a visit to the vet and some woman called the police. I left the area before the police arrived, but was so upset I stopped2 minutes later and called 911 myself. It was 56 degrees out and I had each window cracked 2 inches. My dog went ballistic when I walked away from the car but I figured she would calm down. She did not, and drew the attention of bystanders that felt I was being abusive to my dog. If I felt I had a legal leg to stand on, I would consider suing this woman.

  19. Shane
    December 11, 2015 at 10:17 AM

    Use your head. Many times I see dogs in hot cars and the owner/driver only cracks the window 1in, OMG you idiot! I’d love to put that person in there for just 5 min and see how they feel!! I leave my dog in my van but have windows over half way down, but also have a roof vent with a exhaust fan running. Even at 90 degrees outside it’s cooler to sit in the van. I’ve checked it out. When it’s hot I also use an oscillating 12v fan that you can get at any auto store or Walmart type store. This really moves the hot air out. Others have exclaimed how comfortable it is inside. Of course using my head I also never park in the sun, even if I have to walk a long way to park in shade

  1. April 24, 2013 at 11:48 PM
  2. July 7, 2013 at 12:38 PM

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