Animals

Is It Against the Law To Leave Your Dog In the Car With the Windows Down?

At the moment, 31 states have regulations governing pets left in “unattended vehicles.” Some states additionally permit “any person” to save an endangered animal without incurring civil or criminal penalties due to car damage.

Hopefully, every conscientious pet owner is aware that a car’s interior temperature can rise quickly to a deadly level. And a hot day isn’t even necessary for that to occur.

But what if you leave a window fully open or crack it? What about the colder winter and fall days? Is there ever a time when leaving your dog unattended in a car is safe or even permitted?

Here are some general “rules of the road” that every dog lover should be aware of before traveling with their pet.

Over the Years, Dogs and Cars

It’s not unusual to want to take a canine family member with you when you travel by automobile.

For dog owners who traveled, the 1930s saw the development of some strange devices. A favorite was the “Bird Dog Palace.” There were two sizes of that metal cage. It was fastened to the running board on the driver’s side of the vehicle.

The “Dog Sack” was an even worse method of confinement for your canine buddy back then. It was exactly what it sounded like—a “sack” fastened to the running board and an open window. But don’t be concerned—it had a hole for the head!

Consider the year 2019 and the introduction of Tesla’s “Dog Mode” option. Of course, puppies were no longer confined to running boards by this point.

The Tesla function lets the driver control the inside cabin temperature, using the battery in the process. A message on the touchscreen of the car informs onlookers of the temperature inside and the impending return of the dog’s driver. Over time, changes have been made to the feature, which at first had certain potentially deadly problems. The car’s battery life and any problems remain a concern, though.

The Warmth and Coldth of It

The Humane Society of the United States has the following to say: “Cool outside doesn’t mean cool in the car.”

Even if it’s a comfortable 72 degrees outdoors, a car’s interior cabin may quickly reach 116 degrees in less than an hour. In just ten minutes, a summer day that is 80 degrees Fahrenheit can reach almost 100 degrees.

As many dogs leap and bark when left in a car, they run the risk of suffering from heat stroke even before the temperature reaches lethal levels. It has been discovered that lowering the windows, even all the way, has no appreciable impact on the temperature inside the car.

Winter weather can present your dog with the same dangers as summer weather.

Car interiors rapidly cool. Hypothermia is just as dangerous for your dog as heat stroke if they are not adapted to chilly temperatures.

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Dangers of Dognapping

Despite a locked door, the chance of having your best friend kidnapped out of your car still exists.

Two million pets are stolen in the United States each year, according to sad statistics. Many are stolen from abandoned vehicles. Even worse, just 20% of those stolen dogs find their owners again.

No matter how quickly you anticipate finishing that task, criminals often finish even more quickly. Additionally, your dog is far more likely to be kidnapped if it is one of the top ten puppies that dog thieves most regularly target, including the French bulldog and Yorkshire Terrier.

In essence, leaving your dog in a car alone is never fully secure.

Is It Illegal to Leave an Animal Unattended in a Vehicle?

The definitions and punishments for leaving animals in parked cars vary from state to state.

Attempts to save an animal from a moving vehicle may be protected from responsibility in several places. Other states, like New Jersey, do not, although they do view abandoning a pet “under dangerous conditions” as a crime that must be remedied with a minimum $500 fine.

A $100 fine is imposed in California for leaving “an animal” in a car by themselves in “conditions that endanger” their health or wellbeing. Lack of food, water, or other potentially hazardous “circumstances” are examples of such endangerment. The maximum fine is increased to $500 and the animal faces the possibility of incarceration if it sustains “great bodily injury.”

A dog or cat is considered a “animal” in Colorado, and “cruelty” is defined as keeping the animal confined in a car “in a cruel or reckless manner.” Colorado also protects against property damage caused by a kind person breaking into a car to save an animal.

Dogs, cats, and other animals maintained as house pets are considered “domestic animals” under Florida law. Additionally, that state offers protection from liability for harms caused when rescuing a pet from a moving car.

Even in the absence of written regulations, animal cruelty prohibitions would still apply in some cases because these laws vary from state to state.

A comprehensive list of state legislation governing animals left alone in automobiles was recently developed by Michigan State University and is available here.

Travels with Fido

Although transporting your dog in the car, whether for a road trip on vacation or simply around the neighborhood, has its difficulties, there are simple steps you can take to make the trip safer.

While we would never leave a baby or toddler unattended in a car, it’s rather usual to see dogs riding in the backseat or hanging out the windows. Even while it feels good to have the wind in your ears, doing so could be dangerous.

Cats are also easily startled, therefore even if amusing films of cats riding in cars calmly exist, they should always be in a carrier.

Another issue is distracted driving. Putting your dog in the car without giving him a “seat belt” frequently results in canine antics that can divert your focus from the road. That is against the law in three states.

For instance, New Jersey mandates that all animals in the passenger area be secured with a seat belt or in a container. Similar legislation exists in Rhode Island, however it permits a passenger to have “control” over the dog. Hawaii has two different forms of fines: one for having a dog in your lap while driving, and the other for having a loose animal in your vehicle.

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Pet safety belts

Doggie seat belts are available for anywhere from $10 and over $100 for “crash-tested” harnesses, plus every price in between. There are no government requirements for dog restraints, in contrast to child car seats.

In the absence of such requirements, the best-fitting option will be the safest. And even when wearing a seat belt, never allow your friend ride in the front seat. For your dog, the rear seat is optimal, just as it is for young children. The front seat is more riskier for larger dogs. During a front-end collision, the airbags will inflate if a front-seat passenger weighs more than 70 pounds. Even a large dog can die from that power.

Dog seat belts are fastened to the seat belt with a short lead, precisely like a walking harness. Such precautions can also stop your best friend from fleeing the vehicle in the event of an accident. Dog paws are perfect for unexpectedly closing windows, so be careful to use the window lock as well.

Of course, taking another human along is the greatest strategy for traveling with any pet. Any lengthy journey will include opportunities to eat or use the restroom. Your dog won’t run the risk of being left in your car alone, even for a brief period of time, if you have a human traveling companion.