Hot cars and loose pets

(No, it's not the name of the latest tell-all tabloid bestseller. We're talking about seriously risky situations that happen every day, but are entirely preventable.)

Brutus, Duke, Coco, Lola and Jake...sure, they're fairly common pet names, but they're also the names of just a few of the pets that died last year because they were left in cars on warm (and not necessarily hot) days while their owners were shopping, visiting friends or family, or running errands. What's so tragic is that these beloved pets were simply the victims of bad judgment.

Want numbers? An independent study1 showed that the interior temperature of vehicles parked in outside temperatures ranging from 72 to 96° F rose steadily as time increased. And cracking the windows doesn't help.

Elapsed time Temperature rise inside vehicle
10 minutes 19°F
20 minutes 29°F
30 minutes 34°F
60 minutes 43°F
1 to 2 hours 45-50°F

View a more detailed table

View an animated video of the temperature rise in a car over time.

...add to that the fact that most pets are not properly restrained while in the car, and you've got some dangerous situations – for people and pets alike. Unrestrained pets can be seriously or fatally injured, or could even hurt you, in a collision or sudden braking situation. In addition, they're a distraction for the driver, which increases the risk of driver errors. According to a 2010 American Automobile Association (AAA) survey, 2 out of 3 owners engage in distracting behaviors (playing with, feeding or petting their dog, or letting their dog sit in their lap) when pets are in the car...and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 20% of injury crashes involve distracted driving.

Please don't become another statistic: only take your pets in the vehicle with you when you absolutely need to, and always properly restrain your pets while in the vehicle.

How can you help prevent these injuries and deaths?

  • Learn more about keeping your pet safe during travel;
  • Set a good example by leaving your pet(s) at home except when you need to have them in the vehicle;
  • Set a good example by always properly restraining your own pet(s) while in a vehicle;
  • Educate clients, family and friends about these issues and how they can keep their pet(s) safe;
  • Download and distribute our posters to help educate pet owners about the dangers of hot vehicles and lack of restraint:

Other AVMA resources:

FAQs about Traveling with Your Pet
Pets in Vehicles

Other resources:

McLaren C, Null J and Quinn J. Heat stress from enclosed vehicles: moderate ambient temperatures cause significant temperature rise in enclosed vehicles. Pediatrics 2005; 116: e109-e112. Available at: Also available at

Hyperthermia Deaths of Children in Vehicles(information on in-vehicle temperatures, including an animated video)

Paws to Click(a public service campaign to encourage pet owners to properly restrain pets while in the car)

Doggie Distractions Fact Sheet (some facts from the 2010 AAA/Kurgo survey) (official U.S. Government website for distracted driving)

Download these posters

Download poster

Pet in car heat

Download poster

Pet in car restraint