How Long Can You Leave Your Dog in the Car?

As a proud pawrent, you might love to bring your dog everywhere you go. Thankfully, more stores, outdoor restaurants, and other locations are making it easy for your pup to tag along. However, most places still 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.

Anything can happen while you are gone. The biggest problem with leaving your pup in the car is the temperature outside and inside the car. Both hot and cold weather can severely impact your dog's health and lead to serious health problems. Even if you don't think it's that hot or cold, a closed car can amplify temperatures, leading to a heat stroke or hypothermia.

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 parked or stationary cars. Many of these laws make it clear that leaving pets alone in a vehicle during extreme temperatures is prohibited because it can lead to serious injury or even death of the pet.  A person could be charged with animal cruelty for violating these laws. In addition, many states have laws that allow compassionate citizens to rescue a dog in need 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 ordinances. It’s important to be aware of all local laws in your hometown or the 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 are the outside temperature and how long you plan to be gone. Even if you leave a crack open in the window, a vehicle left in extreme temperatures can become scorching hot or cold in a short amount of time:

  • At 70°F, your car can heat up to 89°F in 10 minutes and 104°F in 30 minutes.
  • At 80°F, your car can heat up to 99°F in 10 minutes and 114°F in 30 minutes.
  • At 95°F, your car can heat up to 114°F in 10 minutes and 129°F 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, your dog can’t 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 you must leave them unattended, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • If 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.
  • Return in 10 minutes or less if possible, keep an eye on your pet from the store.

    don't leave dog in car

    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 first. If they seem okay, 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.

    Read more: Top 5 Signs Your Dog Could Be in Discomfort

    Read more: Read more: Why You Should Dogproof Your Doors

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