How Long Can You Leave Your Dog in the Car?
Aug 23, 2018

As a proud pawrent, you might love to bring your dog everywhere you go. Thankfully, more and more stores, outdoor restaurants and other locations are making it easy for your pup to tag along with you. However, the majority of places prohibit animals. If you've got your dog along for the ride, and you need to make a stop, should you leave them in the car? And if you do, how long can your dog be left? These are questions every dog parent has to answer at one time or another, and unfortunately, there is no easy answer.

Anything can happen while you are gone. Unkind passersby can tease your dog and get them worked up into a frenzy. But the biggest concern with leaving your pup in the car is outside temperatures. Both hot and cold weather can severely impact your dog's health and lead to serious problems. Even if you don't think it's that hot or that cold, a car can amplify the temperature leading to your dog becoming overheated or suffering from hypothermia. Many dogs die every year from being left in vehicles in these circumstances.

So, before you decide to leave your dog in the car, here are some things you should consider.

leaving dog unattended in car

Is It Legal to Leave Your Dog In the Car?

We are a nation of pet lovers, and our laws are beginning to reflect public sentiment. That's why over half of the states in our country have made it illegal to leave dogs, cats and other pets unattended in a parked or stationary car when doing so could cause the pet injury or endanger their life. Many of these laws make it clear that leaving them alone in a vehicle during extreme temperatures is prohibited.

If law enforcement finds someone in violation of these laws, that person could be charged with animal cruelty, something no dog lover would ever want. Also, many of these laws allow compassionate citizens concerned with the well-being of a dog to rescue them by whatever means. These citizens are given protection against civil liability, meaning they can't be sued for damage done to a car in their attempt to rescue a pet.

Even if your state doesn't have any laws on the books regarding leaving pets alone in cars, many city governments and municipalities are enacting their own ordinances. Be sure to be aware of all local laws in your hometown or cities where you're traveling with your dog.

Is It Ever Okay to Leave Your Dog in the Car?

The main things you need to consider before leaving your pup alone in the car is the outside temperature and how long you plan to be gone. Even if you crack the window, studies have shown that a vehicle left in extreme temperatures can become scorching hot or freezing in a short amount of time:

  • At 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your car can heat up to 89 degrees in 10 minutes and 104 degrees in 30 minutes.
  • At 80 degrees Fahrenheit, your car can heat up to 99 degrees in 10 minutes and 114 degrees in 30 minutes.
  • At 95 degrees Fahrenheit, your car can heat up to 114 degrees in 10 minutes and 129 degrees in 30 minutes.

The hotter it is inside a car, the harder it becomes for your dog to breathe. With no proper air circulation and only hot air to breathe, they're unable to keep cool, making heatstroke nearly inevitable.

Even if your dog loves to play outside on a cold day, they are more susceptible to chilly weather in a stationary car. At 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they are at risk for hypothermia.

Tips for If You Must Leave Your Dog Unattended in a Car

If you find yourself alone on the road with your dog and it becomes necessary to leave them unattended, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • When the temperature is too hot or cold, do not leave them unattended.
  • The age of your pup and their health can make them more susceptible to extreme temperatures.
  • Park in a shady spot.
  • Use a screen to block as much sun as possible from coming into the car.
  • Bring an extra key so you can leave the AC running while still locking your car up.
  • Leave a bowl of water to help your dog keep cool.
  • Keep your stop to 10 minutes or less, and if possible, keep an eye on your pet from the store.

If You See a Dog Left Unattended in Extreme Temperatures

If it's extremely hot or cold outside and you see a dog left alone in a car, you should take action. Peek in to check on the well-being of the dog. If they seem okay at the moment, call animal control. You can also call 911 if you feel that the dog is in imminent danger. Although some states allow civilians to break into cars if a pet's life is at risk, this should only be done in extreme circumstances.