Within 10 minutes, a parked car can reach up to 104 degrees on the inside when it’s about 85 degrees outside, according to AVMA.org — a nonprofit association that represents veterinarians.
Leaving a dog or cat in that hot car can cause serious health problems.
According to Tim Anderson, animal control sergeant lead in King County, the temperature in people’s cars will still rise even if the car is parked in the shade, or if the windows of the car open.
“What we would like to see is that on these on days, don’t bring your dogs. Leave them at home, leave them other places, take them to doggy daycares, but don’t have them in the car. It’s too hot for dogs and kids to be in cars,” Anderson said.
He continued saying, “Within 30 minutes, we could see temperatures get up to about 120 degrees.”
Anderson said if anyone comes across an animal in a hot car, the first thing they want to do is get every detail they can about the car, including, the make and model of the car, year, color and the license plate number.
Then Anderson said to call 911.
Once on the phone with the emergency caller, Anderson said to explain the details about the car and to remember to describe where the car is at.
“Southcenter mall is pretty big, so if we had a good idea of where it’s (the car is) at. (Like) outside of Sears on the east side in the third row. Those are all sort of helpful things for us,” he said.
The next step according to Anderson is to go inside the store or business the car is parked in front of or near, and alert the manager or business owner about the trapped animal.
Then, have them try to reach out to the owner and have them get their animal out of the car.
Another valuable thing to do is to make sure and keep track of the time that the dog has been in the car, Anderson said.
Once those steps are taken, the person who called 911 should wait near the car for animal control or a police officer to come and assess the situation.
Anderson said the Washington State law that refers to leaving an animal in a car does not give a civilian the permission to smash the window to let the animal out.
Once the officer arrives, they take it from there.
First, they take the temperature of the inside and outside of the car, Anderson explained.
“All the animal control officers are equipped with a couple of different styles of thermometers. So we have what is almost your standard meat thermometers that we can put in a cracked window and get an ambient temperature. Then we have other thermometers that record like surface temperatures, sort of those gun-type ones that record surface temperature,” Anderson explained.
Then, the officer must determine if the animal is at risk of health issues before they can break into the car to retrieve the animal.
“Maybe the dog is painting, it’s conscious, it’s still moving about OK, we certainly go with the education piece, let people know, ‘Hey, it’s too hot. Don’t leave your dog in the car,’” Anderson said. “The next step from that is we can then write them tickets for having their dog in the car. And then of course it goes all the way up to animal cruelty. So if there is some kind of pain or suffering that the dog or cat is experiencing then it could be criminal.”
Anderson is referring to RCW 16.52.340, the law the protocol and actions and officer must take if they find an animal in a hot car.
The law states that is a “class 2 civil infraction to leave or confine animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space, if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation or lack of necessary water,” according to the Washington State Legislature website.
It continued with, “an animal control officer and law enforcement officer who responsibility believes an animal is suffering or is likely to suffer harm from exposure to heat, cold, lack of ventilation or lack the necessary water, is authorized to enter a vehicle and remove the animal.”
It also stated that an animal control officer, law enforcement, or the department employing the officer is not liable for any damage resulting from action taken under this section of the law.
Anderson said that even though there has not been too many instances this year involving animal endangerment in a car, he said there has been instances of this in the past years.
He said over the years, dogs have died as a result of their owners leaving the dogs in the car in hot weather.
This has changed significantly though, according to Anderson.
“I think we live in a community that really cares about their animals and so these aren’t as frequent as they maybe were years ago,” he said.