The weather outside is frightful, if you're a dog and your people take you everywhere in the car. This summer, I've seen plenty of news accounts of people who have placed their pets in hot cars and then walked away, leaving said pets in terrible--and even life-threatening--positions for hours.
Sometimes, people do just the right thing when they see a dog in a hot car. In fact, there's one local story from June of this year that demonstrates my point quite nicely.
In Tigard, people noticed a very small dog in a hot car and they called the police to investigate. Officers came out to investigate, and as the officers were about to break down the window, the owner came back. That owner was arrested, the dog was removed to a shelter and charges for animal abuse are ongoing. (Read more about that story here.)
The people in this situation did what I have advised in more than one blog post: They got the police involved, and they stayed at the scene until the police arrived. They didn't do anything on their own.
Here are 3 reasons you should do the same.
1. You don't know anything about that dog.It's a fact that some dogs are afraid of people they do not know. And many dogs are terribly aggressive when they think their lives are in danger. If you're a dog in a hot car, with people standing around your turf (your car), you're likely to be aggressive. If that window breaks, you might be more than likely to bite.
A dog bite can harm a person. But a bite is catastrophic for a dog. A dog that bites could be subject to quarantine, legal intervention and possible euthanasia. By trying to save a dog that may or may not need your help, you could be putting that dog's life at risk.
Police officers are trained to assess these situations, and they know whether or not it is legally advisable to intervene in the case of a dog in a car. A police officer can, due to that training, make a better call about intervening than you can. And if the dog overreacts, the police officer's voice holds more water than yours every could. That police officer might save the biting dog from a bad consequence. You can't.
2. You may not have the ability to keep that dog safe.When you break a dog from a car, what happens next? Do you have a leash? A kennel? A car seat? Are you 100 percent sure you can control that animal and keep it from running away or running right into the path of an oncoming car?
Police officers dispatched to a scene like this have tools you do not. They can also marshal other community resources, such as animal control officers and animal shelter workers. These are people who can both capture an animal and legally keep that animal until the owner can be dealt with. These aren't resources you have.
3. You have no law enforcement power.Finally, remember that there are robust laws about putting the life and safety of an animal at risk. People who do this once might change their minds after a stern conversation. But they might not. If you simply rescue the animal, they could sue you for damage and go ahead and do this again. If you wait for law enforcement, they could be ticketed, arrested or both. And the animals the person has could be removed from that household for good, which could keep them safe for good.
Isn't that a better outcome?
I know we all want to do what's right. And we all want to help the best we can when we see pets in hot cars. But seriously. If you see something, call someone. Let the authorities handle these things. It's better for the dogs, the people and the community.
What do you think? Leave me a note in the comments and share your stories.
And don't forget: I'm hosting a dog cookie giveaway! It ends Thursday. Click here to enter!