This afternoon I witnessed a confrontation between a concerned passer-by and a driver who left her small dog in her Toyota Prius as she entered a fast casual restaurant and placed a to-go order. The other patron confronted the dog owner and informed her that, “In these temperatures, your car can turn into an oven within minutes.” The driver responded by pointing out that she had parked where she could see her dog in the car and that she was only running into the restaurant for a few moments to get her to-go order.
So who was in the right? We’ve already covered what to do if you see a dog in a hot car, but the subject is worth a second look.
The Observer’s Side
The observer who confronted the dog owner who left her dog in a car made several points:
- The temperature in a parked car in the sun can rise to lethal levels very rapidly.
- Running the air conditioner before parking a car only briefly delays increases in the temperature inside the car, even if the air conditioner is used at its highest setting.
- Intending to leave the car only briefly is no guarantee that your actual absence will be brief.
- You don’t know how long your dog can stay in a hot car without getting heat exhaustion until it happens– every dog’s tolerance threshold is different.
The Dog Owner’s Side
The dog owner who left her small dog in a parked car on a warm day argued that she was, in fact, behaving responsibly:
- The car was parked where she could see her dog continuously; the dog was never truly out of its owner’s sight.
- She intended only to place a to go order, observe the dog while waiting for the order, and then return immediately to the car.
- The owner would have been able to return to her car more quickly had she not been confronted by a stranger about leaving her dog in the car.
- The dog was fine when the owner returned to her car.
In this situation, I think the observer is in the right. The dog owner’s arguments in her own defense all hinged on the fact that she was never too far from the car to intervene if her dog seemed distressed. However, if she’s not too far from the car to run out and let her dog out if it seems overheated, she’s not too far away to leave it running with the air conditioner on while she gets her takeout order. Granted, this would activate the Prius’s internal combustion engine, but is saving gas such a laudable goal that it justifies endangering a pet? I think not.
Or, better yet, the dog’s owner should have left her dog at home or brought a passenger who could stand outside the restaurant holding the dog. In hot weather, if you know you’ll be leaving your car and going into a building where dogs aren’t allowed, don’t bring your dog on errands.