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resources > dogs in hot cars



It takes just minutes for a car to turn into an oven

Even if the temperature outside is just 70˚F or the car windows are cracked open, the temperature inside a vehicle will reach dangerously high levels in just minutes — and a dog or cat could suffer severe illness or die if left unattended in the car.



Because excessive heat is life-threatening, it is

against the law in Minnesota (Minn. Stat. Sec. 346.57) to "leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety."



Studies prove the first 15-30 minutes are critical

— this is when the majority of the temperature rise in a car's interior occurs. Warning signs of the animal's distress may vary: from heavy panting, tongue hanging out, restlessness, anxiety, clawing at window to trembling, vomiting, disoriented, foaming at mouth, diarrhea to collapsed, seizures, death.


Leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle when the temperature is hot is both a legal and medical issue.

• Time is critical — It takes just minutes for the interior of a vehicle to heat up to dangerous levels, which can result in brain damage or death for the animal.

• Windows — Windows cracked open don't make a difference. Studies have shown that even when car windows are left open the temperature in a vehicle can reach dangerous highs.

• Panting — Dogs and cats don't sweat to release heat — they pant. Panting increases muscle movement which increases body heat even more. If trapped in a confined, hot area, the animal cannot cool down.

• Cool down — The goal is to cool down the animal's core body temperature gradually. The animal needs to be drenched in water — not ice or cold water, which may make the animal go into shock.



Need proof? Athlete sits in hot car to prove what it's like for a dog left behind.

• BarkPost - NFL Star Locks Himself In Car To Show What It's Like For Your Dog



If you see it, act on it. This could be a life or death matter.


1. Record what you observe

Write down the make, model and license-plate number of the car and street location.


2. Try to locate owner

Try to locate the owner of the animal by approaching businesses nearby and asking them to make an announcement to find the owner. Return to the car and wait for law enforcement/authorities (see #3).


3. Contact local police or sheriff — or other designated authorities

If the animal is in distress, call law enforcement immediately.

• Law enforcement

Emergency? Call 911 

Specific police/sheriff contacts:

Just click on the link above and a list of counties in Minnesota will be displayed. Click on the county you need, and it will list the Sheriff Office (SO) and the Police Departments (PDs) for that county.

The statute also gives authority to:

• Humane agents

Animal Humane Society - humane agents:

Humane Agent Keith Streff: 763-489-2236

Humane Agent Wade Hanson: 763-489-1570

MN Federated Humane Society - humane agents:


• Dog wardens

Animal control agencies vary throughout Minnesota. In the metro:

Minnesota Animal Care and Control:


St. Paul Animal Care and Control:


Central Minnesota Animal Care and Control


• Fire or rescue departments of a political subdivision:

Specific fire department contacts:


4. Generate awareness of the issue

Spread the word — at grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants and other businesses. Print and distribute the materials below:


The "Heat Kills" flyer can be printed in color or black and white on 8.5x11 inch paper. Half of flyer is shown at right; other half includes copy.

• Postcards

The flyer is also designed as a two-sided, color postcard. Animal Folks has pre-printed postcards. For details, contact Animal Folks:

5. Please donate

Donate today to support the HEAT KILLS campaign and other efforts of Animal Folks to protect animals and provide information to the public and law enforcement. As part of a training program for law enforcement, Animal Folks has also created a multi-page Q&A training sheet to educate peace officers about the law, the issue and actions to take.

Donate now. With your donation of $25 or more to Animal Folks, you'll receive a gift of 10 "Heat Kills" postcards for you to hand out when needed. It's our way of saying thank you for helping spread the word and supporting training efforts.




NOTE: Animal Folks has created a Q&A sheet for law enforcement explaining the law and what action is needed, legally and medically. Information below is included in the Q&A sheet.

DISCLAIMER: This material is educational only. It does not constitute legal or medical advice.


1. What is the Minnesota statute regarding dogs and cats in hot vehicles?

The statute is: Minn. Stat. Sec. 346.57 Dogs and Cats in Motor Vehicles

Subdivision 1. Unattended dogs or cats.

A person may not leave a dog or cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety.

Subdivision 2. Removal of dogs or acts.

A peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department of a political subdivision may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation of subdivision 1. A person removing a dog or cat under this subdivision shall use reasonable means to contact the owner of the dog or cat to arrange for its return home. If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the dog or cat to an animal shelter.

Subdivision 3. Petty misdemeanor.

A person who violates subdivision 1 is subject to a fine of $25.

2. Why is this statute important?

If a dog or cat is left confined and unattended in a hot vehicle with rising temperatures, the animal could literally cook to death. Read on for further medical descriptions.

3. Does "reasonable force" mean the window can be broken?

Yes, a peace officer or others defined within statute (see above) can break the window to retrieve the dog or cat.

4. What if the windows are cracked open?

As explained above, studies have proven that even when car windows are cracked open the car's interior temperatures can soar to dangerous highs. The first 15-30 minutes are critical. See chart below. (Data from study by Jan Null, CCM, San Francisco State Univ.)

5. Are certain dogs or cats at more risk?

All dogs and cats are at risk but there are some types and breeds that are more sensitive to heat extremes: elderly, overweight or very young animals as well as brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as pugs, boxers and bulldogs and, for cats, Persians and Himalayans — due to short airways.

6. What happens (medically) to a dog or cat due to excessive heat?

The medical condition condition is hyperthermia, also referred to as heat stroke. The degree of hyperthermia can vary based on animal breed, age, type and other factors. Hyperthermia means an elevated body temperature. The normal temperature for a dog or cat is between 99.5 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Hyperthermia occurs when the dog or cat can't dissipate the heat fast enough. Dogs and cats don't sweat; instead, they pant to release heat. Dogs and cats have very few sweat glands and most are in the footpads; hot upholstery can also hurt the paws. Panting is the body's attempt to cool the animal but, as this involves rapid muscle movement, it actually increases body temperature in a confined area. Humidity also rises secondary to panting, which exacerbates the situation. Once a critical core body temperature is exceeded, the blood's clotting mechanism shuts down and the animal will start to bleed internally. Shock develops quickly, followed by death if aggressive emergency treatment is not sought.

NOTE: Most dogs and cats with hyperthermia have temperatures greater than 105˚F.

7. What actions should law enforcement/authorities take?

Ideally, two peace officers or authorities are needed to work simultaneously to handle the incident — one addresses the needs of the animal while the other looks for the owner and documents the evidence/impressions at the scene. Due to limited resources, two peace officers may not be possible.

The ideal: If the emergency veterinary hospital is nearby and resources permit, law enforcement should place the animal on a cooling mat in the squad car and immediately transport the animal to the hospital. If the veterinary hospital is not nearby, actions below should be administered by the authority:

- Place animal in shaded area.

- Offer small amounts of water for the animal to drink. Do not force water.

- Drench the animal in water (not cold). Get the animal wet everywhere. REMINDER: Ice or cold water should not be used as they will cause the animal's blood vessels to shrink, holding the heat inside and making the problem worse.

- If available, cool the animal with a fan or place in an air-conditioned squad car on cooling mat so animal can gradually cool down.

- Call veterinarian for advice if unsure of animal's condition.

8. What is the penalty for violation of this law?

Petty misdemeanor. However, based on the situation, other laws and penalties may apply. See next question.

9. What other Minnesota laws could apply to this situation?

The fact that the dog or cat may be without water and unable to regulate his or her heat could result in unnecessary pain, suffering or death. If so, this could also be charged as animal cruelty or an omission of care (not providing shade, water, proper temperature). Applicable statutes:

Minn. Stat. Chapter 343 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Minn. Stat. Sec. 346.35-44 Pet and Companion Animal Welfare Act  


NOTE: This material is educational only. It does not constitute legal or medical advice.




My Dog Is Cool:


ASPCA: Don't put your pets in danger

Red Rover: A life or death issue — list of articles/reports of animals left in hot cars

One Green Planet: Animals and Nature Man charged following death of dog in hot car



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