Last week, I was faced with a tough situation that most dog lovers fear.
After a walk through the woods on a muggy, 85 degree day with Toby, my dog and my friend’s dog, Dolce, we returned to the parking lot seeking the comfort of air conditioning
To my horror, as we were about to pile into my car, I noticed a dog panting heavily alone in a black car with the windows barely cracked.
We were in a state forest parking lot. People who park here are typically away from their cars for a minimum of 30 minutes.
It’s not like we were in a Walgreen’s lot and there was a chance that the dog parent had popped into the store to grab something quickly.
As a watched the dog panting at a rapid rate, my heart sank and I became nauseous.
I made eye contact with him and he began crying and barking.
I stood there paralyzed and not knowing what to do for about 5 minutes.
My first inclination was to break into the car and get the dog out.
However, I stopped short of doing that because I didn’t know what my rights were in this situation.
The following ran through my mind…
Can I destroy private property to get this dog out?
Will I be arrested?
I don’t want to get arrested.
Dammit I have to get this dog out this hot box of a car!
Who the hell would leave their dog in a car like this at a state forest parking lot!
Am I making a big deal out of nothing?
My train of confusion was broken up by a couple of people walking toward the parking lot.
I hoped that this was their dog in the car so that we could get him some oxygen (and so I could ask them what the hell were they thinking leaving a dog in a car on such a hot day).
I knew that I would never forgive myself if I left this situation.
Every time we visited these forest trails, I would wonder what happened to the dog panting like crazy in the hot car.
With Toby and Dolce safely in my running, air conditioned car, I took a deep breath and called the non-emergency local police number.
I calmly explained the situation to the cop on the other end of the phone who was suprisingly concerned like I was.
Pacing nervously between my car and the black, smoldering car containing this dog in distress, I waited for the dispatched cop to pull up.
I braced myself for the cop to discount my worry about the situation.
Even though, I recognized how serious this was, not everyone understands or sympathizes with what animals need.
About 10 minutes later, a woman with two dogs emerged from the trail end and slowly walked toward the black car.
My eyes opened wide, my heart pounded and I approached her.
I said, “I’m sorry but you can’t leave a dog in a car on a hot day like this. I was concerned so I have called the police.”
The next thing I knew, a never-ending stream of curses, hatred, negativity, insults and hot air came from her mouth in my direction.
Her yelling and fire spouting didn’t end a couple minutes later when the police officer pulled up. In fact it escalated.
The cop was getting mad with her. I felt scorched by her words and like all I had done was cause a problem.
At least the dog was out of the car and his panting was starting to subside.
Next thing I knew, the cop was looking me in the eyes and asking if I was okay.
You don’t see me as wasting your time?
All in all the dog is safe. The woman had some other business that was not dealt with in regards to her car so it was towed from parking lot. The police officer was grateful to me for calling to help the dog and ultimately allowing them to get a car that shouldn’t have been on the road impounded. He reassured me that I did the right thing.
As I recall this whole thing I have highlighted these tips for any other animal lovers who find themselves in a similar tough spot…
1. Take a Deep Breath and Believe in Yourself
If you feel that an animal is in danger then go with your gut and call law enforcement for help.
Try not to worry about any backlash that may potentially come from the cops or the other pet parent involved.
My actions last week were only possible because I suspended the questions in my head and did what had to be done. I let go of the thought that I was causing trouble by calling the police.
Being yelled at by the other dog parent certainly was not the highlight of my week, but I know I couldn’t have ever left that dog withering in that hot car.
2. Know Your Local Laws
Pacing in that parking lot I wished I knew what power if any I had to help this dog. Some places are proposing laws making it legal to break into a hot car to release an animal in danger. Learn more about your state’s law here: https://www.animallaw.info/topic/table-state-laws-protect-animals-left-parked-vehicles
3. Ask For Help
Yes, calling the police is definitely a way to get help. However, if you are in a store parking lot, you can ask the manager on duty to make a storewide announcement to get the owner outside quickly to get the animal out. Also, and most importantly, I recommend reaching out to someone in your circle who will understand. While nervously waiting for the cop to come, I called a good friend who calmed my nerves so I was able to effectively explain everything to the cop.
I hope that my story and tips help if and when you are in a similar situation. Let’s keep all animals safe!