It happens far too often. Perhaps you've witnessed it in a parking lot or on the street somewhere. Someone has parked their car, got out, locked it, and walked away, leaving their dog inside. Maybe it was just for a minute or you had to run inside the store for a few things or you left the window open a crack and thought, he'll be fine.

Unfortunately, none of these are acceptable answers when someone confronts you with 'why the heck did you leave your dog unattended in your car?' That person could be a police officer and it could cost you a fine, even criminal charges, and worse - you could harm or even kill your dog.

The Inside of Your Car Can Heat Up Quickly - Even Under Mild Outside Temperatures

Obviously, dogs are not the only ones whose safety we need to be concerned about, namely, children. Interestingly, according to a study in the Journal Pediatrics, even on a mild Yakima afternoon, say 70 degrees, the temperature inside your parked car and blast up to 110 or 120 degrees within as little as half an hour. Neither your child nor your dog would likely survive in one of these examples, especially when our outside temperatures are likely going to be 90 degrees and above this summer. So, whatever the outside temp is - add 40+degrees to it and that's what the inside of your car will be.

Is It Legal In Washington State To Break Out a Car Window to Rescue a Dog?

Well, in a word, NO. Now, I realize that may not stop you if you come upon a car parked on a hot summer day with a dog inside and you can see that it's obviously in trouble. You'll get no judgment from me that's for sure. However, you'll likely be judged by a judge as it is NOT legal to take matters into your own hands. At last check, there are only 11 states in the union where it is legal, and Washington isn't one of them.

What Can You Do When You Discover a Dog is Locked in a Hot Car in Washington?

First, experts and authorities agree, you should immediately attempt to find the owner of the car. Logically, if it's parked outside of a store or other business, go inside and attempt to find them. Use the store intercom, walk up and down the isles, check with the store manager, whatever you need to do to try and find them.

In the interest of time, since you don't know how long the dog has already been sitting in the car before you discovered them, dial 911 and report the situation, and stay by the car until the police or animal control arrive. If a car window is partially down, maybe offer the pooch a little sip of water if you have some handy. My dog enjoys drinking out of my bottled water, sometimes much to my chagrin.

Whatever you do, don't allow the situation to escalate into something even more regrettable by attacking, verbally or otherwise, the owner of the car once they return. The important thing here is animal safety and beyond that, allow law enforcement to handle things. It is, by the way, legal in Washington for police to break in and rescue the dog, so get them on the scene as quickly as possible. If the owner comes back before the police arrive, there's little you can legally do to keep them there, but be sure to snap a photo of the car with the dog in it, the license plate, and even the driver too. This way, law enforcement will have something to go on, should they choose to pursue the matter.

What Are The Penalties for Leaving a Dog Unattended in a Hot Car?

According to state law (RCW 16.52.340), it is against the law for anyone to "leave or confine any animal in an unattended motor vehicle or enclosed space". Depending upon the situation, but especially if the dog is harmed or heaven forbid killed as a result of leaving them in a hot car, Animal Cruelty charges could be filed and the fine would be $125. In my opinion, not nearly enough for such an egregious crime. I spent 10 wonderful years on the Humane Society Board of Directors here in Yakima, and we heard all-to-often the most horrible stories of neglect and endangerment. It's best we keep our eyes and hearts open to help our furry friends in need.

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