We must emphasise from the start that it is absolutely essential to never leave a dog unattended inside a parked car, regardless of whether it has air conditioning or heating, and regardless of the prevailing weather conditions. With that being said, it is important to recognize that each state in the United States has its own specific legislation pertaining to this matter, which we will delve into further in this post. In certain states, the act of leaving your dog unattended in a vehicle is deemed illegal, and those who violate this law may face significant monetary penalties. However, it is worth noting that other states may have more general animal protection laws that encompass this very issue. Let us now delve into the details.

In What States Is It Illegal to Leave Your Dog in the Car?

Leaving your dog in a car is not only unsafe and potentially life-threatening, but it is also illegal in 31 states across the country. These states have strict regulations in place to prevent dogs from being left unattended in cars under dangerous circumstances. Such circumstances include extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, inadequate ventilation, and insufficient provisions of food and water. In fact, some states have gone as far as granting legal protection to individuals who take forceful measures to rescue distressed dogs, shielding them from potential lawsuits.

Different states have various laws regarding rescuing animals from parked vehicles. For example, in some states, only specific individuals like law enforcement, firefighters, or authorized officers are allowed to rescue animals. Furthermore, certain states have restrictions on which types of animals can be rescued, such as dogs or cats only. These laws and penalties for leaving animals unattended in vehicles vary from state to state.

Here are the 31 states that deem it illegal to leave a dog in a parked or stationary vehicle in extreme hot or cold conditions and with no ventilation. We’ve also listed the states with civil immunity or the “Good Samaritan Law” (protection for citizens from being sued for damage to property upon rescuing an animal from a stationary vehicle under dangerous conditions): In addition to the 31 states that have laws against leaving a dog in extreme temperatures, several states, including California, Colorado, and Florida, have enacted Good Samaritan Laws to protect citizens who intervene to rescue animals from dangerous situations.

  • Arizona-Civil immunity
  • California-Civil immunity
  • Colorado-Civil immunity
  • Connecticut-Civil immunity
  • Delaware-Civil immunity
  • Florida-Civil immunity
  • Illinois
  • Indiana-Civil immunity (person is liable for half the damage)
  • Kansas-Civil immunity
  • Louisiana-Civil immunity
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio-Civil immunity
  • Oregon-Civil immunity
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee-Civil immunity
  • Vermont-Civil immunity
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin-Civil immunity

In What States Is It Legal to Leave Your Dog in the Car?

Not all states have laws banning the act of leaving a dog in a parked car. While a few states may not have specific laws regarding this matter, the majority of states have implemented legislation to address animal cruelty, ensuring that dog owners can be held accountable. Here is a list of states where leaving a dog in a parked car is allowed: However, it is crucial to note that just because something is legally allowed does not necessarily mean it is ethical or responsible. As dog owners, it is our moral responsibility to prioritize the well-being and safety of our furry companions, especially in potentially dangerous situations like being left inside a parked car.

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wyoming

States With No Rescue Provision

It is quite alarming that the only two states, Tennessee and Wisconsin, have implemented laws that explicitly forbid individuals from leaving animals unattended in parked vehicles, especially under harsh conditions. What makes this even more concerning is the lack of provisions that empower compassionate passersby to intervene and save these innocent creatures in such distressing circumstances.

  • West Virginia
  • New Jersey

States With Law Enforcement Rescue Law

The laws and regulations in the following states stipulate that only law enforcement or similar personnel are authorised to intervene and rescue a dog that is trapped in a parked car under dangerous or inhumane conditions:

  • Washington
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Minnesota
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Maryland
  • Delaware
  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • Indiana

Steps Should You Take to Help a Distressed Animal in a Stationary Vehicle

There is no easy answer to this question because what steps you take will depend on the laws in your state. In any case, it’s important to know what to do if you end up in this situation:

  • Take note of the make and model of the car and the license plate number. First, ensure your own safety and then the safety of others involved. Next, contact the authorities and follow their guidance to handle the situation appropriately.
  • Please alert nearby businesses to make an announcement in order to help find the dog’s owner. Thank you!
  • If the owner cannot be found, notify the non-emergency police department or animal control and wait for them to arrive. They will have the necessary tools and resources to properly handle the situation and ensure the dog’s safety. In the meantime, try to provide comfort and reassurance to the dog, ensuring they feel safe until help arrives.
  • If your state allows you to break a window without liability, ensure the car is indeed off (some car engines today run nearly silent) and take action. Remember to document the situation by taking pictures or videos of the dog in distress, as well as noting down the time, date, and location of the incident. This information can be useful for authorities when they arrive and for any potential legal actions that may follow. Additionally, consider gathering witness statements from any nearby individuals who can corroborate the situation.


The best way to know how to react in this situation is to understand the laws in your state. Laws differ by state; some protect the civilian while others hold them responsible for damage to the dog owner’s vehicle. In any event, use your best judgement. If the dog is distressed, it is urgent to seek help immediately. Contact the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.


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