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... they're fairly common pet names, and they're also the names of just a few of the pets who have died 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

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. They're also a distraction for the driver. According to a 2010 American Automobile Association (AAA) survey, two out of three owners engage in distracting behaviors (playing with, feeding or petting their dog, or letting the 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.
  • Leave your pet(s) at home except when you need to have them in the vehicle.
  • Always properly restrain 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 these posters to help educate pet owners about the dangers of hot vehicles and lack of restraint.

Other resources

FAQs about traveling with your pet
Pets in vehicles

Further reading

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:

Heatstroke Deaths of Children in Vehicles (information on in-vehicle temperatures)

Distracted driving

Download clinic posters

Download poster

Pet in car heat

Download poster

Pet in car restraint