What Should You Do If You See a Pet in a Hot Car?

When you think summertime, you may envision BBQs, swimming, sunbathing, and tall, cold drinks. It’s a wonderful time of year. However, other summertime associations aren’t as pleasant: pets left in hot cars. If you happen upon a pet sweltering inside a vehicle, it’s important to know the correct and legal way to help.

Even on overcast or mild days, heat builds up quickly inside vehicles. It can mean the death of a pet even in the shade, even with the windows cracked. With an outside temperature of just 70 degrees, a vehicle’s interior can reach above 100 degrees. When it’s 80 degrees outside, it takes only minutes for the inside of a vehicle to reach a deadly temperature.

Unfortunately, though this risk is well known, many pets die each year when their owners leave them inside vehicles. Laws against animal cruelty and penalties vary from state to state and city to city. Some have specific laws that penalize people who leave pets in hot cars. Others have general anti-cruelty laws under which hot-car injuries and deaths fall.

New Mexico state law prohibits animal cruelty without specifically stating hot car offenses. Section 9-2-2-6(B) of Albuquerque’s Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment ordinance (HEART) specifies the illegality of leaving pets in hot cars.

Before you encounter a situation like this, know your city’s and state’s laws. While there are a few states that have Good Samaritan laws, which allow people to break a window to save an animal, most don’t. New Mexico does not have such a law.

When you see a pet trapped and suffering, your instincts may tell you to bash open a window and rescue it. However, if you decide to save a pet in danger by damaging someone’s property, you could face serious charges.

For those of us in states without Good Samaritan laws, here’s what we can and should legally do:

  • Call for help. Call 911 or the local non-emergency police number. In Albuquerque, you can call 242-cops. You can also reach the Animal Welfare department by calling 311.
  • After calling for help, take down the vehicle’s make, model, color, and license plate number. If the vehicle is parked outside an establishment, go inside and ask an employee to make an announcement.
  • Go back outside and wait for authorities to arrive.

Hot-car pet deaths are 100% preventable. Never underestimate how quickly a vehicle’s interior can rise to a killer temperature. Never leave pets in vehicles, even for a few minutes. Familiarize yourself with local laws, and if you witness a pet in distress, call the authorities immediately.

********************HEART ordinance to hyperlink into text: https://www.cabq.gov/pets/education-resources/heart-ordinance/heart-ordinance-text

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