Dog in car.

You and your canine companion go together like peanut butter and jelly, and while your loyal sidekick is always happiest by your side, there are times when leaving him at home is the safest option. We endure some long winters here in New Jersey, and we understand that it’s tempting to want to enjoy every moment of the summer with your dog. But if your car trip includes any stop at all, leaving your dog at home is the kindest—and safest—thing you can do for your pet.

At Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital, we take pet safety seriously, and we want all pet families to understand the dangers of leaving animals in hot cars.

Numbers Can Be Deceiving

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the temperature inside a parked car can increase by nearly 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Which means that even on a pleasant, 80-degree day, the temperature inside your vehicle will hit 100 degrees in the time it takes you to pick up a gallon of milk. Leaving your windows cracked will not help. 

Heatstroke in Dogs

Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are serious threats to our pets in the summer months, and the effects of the summer heat and humidity are greatly magnified inside a vehicle. 

The following symptoms are indicative of heatstroke in dogs:

  • Heavy panting or excessive drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry gums or abnormal gum color
  • Disorientation or gait issues
  • Lethargy
  • Seizure or loss of consciousness

If your pet ever experiences the effects of a heat-related emergency, it’s important to move your pet to an air conditioned area, offer clean drinking water, and contact us immediately for further instruction.

Is it Legal to Leave A Dog in a Parked Car?

The Garden State has several pet laws in place that every responsible pet owner should know and follow. These laws are designed to protect companion animals from potential harm, and one of these laws forbids leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle during dangerous conditions. 

For more details on prohibited acts that constitute animal cruelty, see New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 4:22-26 (subsection c).

What Should You Do if You See an Animal in a Parked Car?

As of now, 31 states have made it illegal to leave a dog unattended in a hot car, including New Jersey. And while 14 states have enacted laws that help protect Good Samaritans from civil or criminal liability for damages incurred while rescuing an animal from a hot car, New Jersey is not one of them. 

If you come across an animal trapped in a hot car, and you are unable to quickly locate the owner, call 911 immediately. In New Jersey, only humane law enforcement or other law enforcement “may enter private property and take physical custody of the animal.”

Make Pet Safety a Priority

It is never okay to leave any companion pet in a parked vehicle. For more pet safety tips or to schedule a checkup, please contact us at (732) 531-1212.