[Ed. Note: What to do if you see ANY dog in ANY car..."If you see a dog left alone in a car, take down the car's color, model, make, and license plate number. Have the owner paged in the store, or call local humane authorities or police. Have someone keep an eye on the dog. Don't leave the scene until the situation has been resolved."]
Every year, dogs suffer and die when their guardians make the mistake of leaving them in a parked car—even for "just a minute"—while they run an errand. Parked cars are deathtraps for dogs: On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 to 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes.
Animals can suffer brain damage or death from heatstroke in just 15 minutes. Beating the heat is extra tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.
If you see a dog left alone in a car, take down the car's color, model, make, and license plate number. Have the owner paged in the store, or call local humane authorities or police. Have someone keep an eye on the dog. Don't leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.
If police are unresponsive or too slow and the dog's life appears to be in imminent danger, find a witness (or several) who will back up your assessment, take steps to remove the suffering animal, and then wait for authorities to arrive.
Watch for heatstroke symptoms such as restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite, dark tongue, rapid heartbeat, fever, vomiting, or lack of coordination. If a dog shows any of these symptoms, get her or him into the shade immediately and call your veterinarian. Lower the animal's body temperature gradually by providing water to drink, applying a cold towel or ice pack to the head, neck, and chest, or immersing the dog in lukewarm (not cold) water.
PETA offers leaflets that can be placed on vehicles to remind people never to leave unattended animals inside. For information on ordering PETA's "Don't Let Your Dog Get Hot Under the Collar" leaflet.