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Summer is an enjoyable season for many people — a time of relaxation, vacations, and the chance to enjoy some outdoor activities. However, with the soaring temperatures, summer is also the time of the year with the most deaths for dogs trapped in hot cars. While it’s a crime in all 50 states to leave a child in a hot car, what about dogs and other pets? View the states where it’s illegal.

How long before a dog or other pet dies in a hot car?

Dog inside orange vehicle, showing the states where it’s illegal to leave dog or other pet in hot car
Dog in a car | Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

For most people, it’s common knowledge that you shouldn’t leave a child or pet in a hot car. Unfortunately, some people still do it. There are laws in place to protect unattended children in hot vehicles — and many states enacted regulations to ban this dangerous practice for pets as well.

It doesn’t take that warm of an outside temperature to make it deadly inside the cabin, especially a car with a dark exterior color — and the windows closed. Per the NHTSA, on a 70-degree day, the cabin temperature of an enclosed car can soar to 110 degrees. 

Also, PETA, which describes cars as “death traps” for dogs and other pets, states that it only takes 20 minutes for the interior temperature to reach 99 degrees on a 70-degree day. And for a 90-degree day, the temperature can soar to 109 degrees in only 10 minutes. Additionally, PETA says that dogs and other pets can get brain damage or die after just 15 minutes in a hot car. 

What states is it illegal to leave a dog and other pets in a hot car? 

Dog inside gray sedan, showing the states where it’s illegal to leave dog or other pet in hot car
Dog in a car | Andrew Sterling via Unsplash

Considering the danger of leaving pets in a hot car, it’s good that states have laws to address this practice. However, not all of them do. Per Autoblog, 31 states have laws for the protection of animals in vehicles. 

Also, some states take this regulation a step further. In 19 states, along with Washington, D.C., it’s illegal to leave dogs and other pets in a hot car. This includes:

  • West Virginia
  • Washington, D.C.
  • South Dakota
  • Rhode Island
  • North Dakota
  • North Carolina
  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Washington
  • Vermont
  • Minnesota
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Illinois
  • Delaware
  • California
  • Arizona

In any of these places, if someone leaves a pet in a vehicle with a dangerously high temperature or puts them in any other life-threatening situation, they can be charged with animal cruelty.

What can you do if you see an animal trapped in a hot vehicle?

Additionally, 21 states, plus Washington, D.C., let the police, animal control, or firefighters rescue a dog or other pet in a hot car by forcibly opening the vehicle. 

What if you see an animal in a vehicle during searing heat? If you live in any of these 13 states, you’ll be shielded by Good Samaritan laws that protect people from rescuing a dog or other pet from a hot car.

This includes:

  • Wisconsin
  • Vermont
  • Tennessee
  • Oregon
  • Ohio
  • Massachusetts
  • Louisiana
  • Kansas
  • Florida
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado
  • California
  • Arizona

If you see a dog or other pet in a hot car, you must notify the police before attempting to rescue the animal. It’s also helpful to take a photo or video so you can provide proof and document the problem. Additionally, some state laws say that to open a locked vehicle, you must not use any more force or cause more damage than necessary.

Furthermore, state regulations vary in terms of what pets can be rescued. Some refer to animals in broad terms, while others only stipulate dogs and cats.