What to do when spotting a pet unattended in vehicle
Question: I noticed a dog that was in a vehicle the other day at a local business parking lot and the occupants were not around. I was wondering what I should have done. With the recent warm weather, I can imagine the temperature inside the car must have been dangerously high for that dog. Is there a law against this?
Answer: There is a law that a person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the pet's health or safety. A peace officer, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat in this situation. If you see an unattended pet in a vehicle, report this to law enforcement with a location and vehicle description.
I would advise pet owners to use caution and always look out for your pet's well-being and safety. Consider the following options:
• Leave your pet at home whenever possible.
• Arrange to have someone stay in the vehicle with the pet with the engine and air conditioner running.
• Check with the business, as they may allow you to bring in your pet while shopping.
Below is a chart on how fast the inside of your vehicle can heat up. This study also found that cracking the windows had very little effect on the temperature rise inside the vehicle.
Estimated Vehicle Interior Air Temperature v. Elapsed Time
Elapsed time Outside Air Temperature (F)
70 75 80 85 90 95
0 minutes 70 75 80 85 90 95
10 minutes 89 94 99 104 109 114
20 minutes 99 104 109 114 119 124
30 minutes 104 109 114 119 124 129
40 minutes 108 113 118 123 128 133
50 minutes 111 116 121 126 131 136
60 minutes 113 118 123 128 133 138
> 1 hour 115 120 125 130 135 140
Courtesy Jan Null, CCM; Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University
Please do not leave your pet unattended in a vehicle, even for a short period as it could cause a serious medical condition or death to your pet.
A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow — Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, firstname.lastname@example.org).