Ask A Cop: Can I Leave My Dog in the Car?

Have a question for the Sheriff's Office? Let us know.

Is there anything you have ever wanted to know from the police department? Well, this is your chance to ask. 

Patch has always strived to bring its readers all types of information and keep them updated on what is happening in their communities. It is with that in mind that we bring you our newest column, “Ask A Cop.” We will be teaming up with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies from around the county to answer your questions.

Whether you have a question about certain laws and how they might affect you, your family or friends or how to stay safe in certain situations, we want you to ask them. Every week we will run one question and answer. To submit a question, email Shannon.burkey@patch.com.


What is the law regarding leaving a dog in the car? I usually keep my car with windows open and in the shade if I leave my dog there, but am I breaking a law? Is there a way to measure how hot it is in the car and is there a legal limit?


This is a great question, as we all care about our animals and want to ensure their safety. When these types of calls are received by the Sheriff’s Office, we conduct our initial investigation, but often times request the assistance of Animal Services for guidance. Supervising Field Manager Todd Stosuy of the Santa Cruz County Animal Services provided the following information about this topic.

The State of California Penal Code 597.7 states, "No person shall leave an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food and water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal."

This code does not explicitly provide a temperature that is too hot for an animal to be left in a vehicle. Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter officers will remove an animal from a vehicle when the temperature inside the vehicle is 90 degrees or above, and the animal is exhibiting signs of lethargy, sickness or excessive panting. We use a reptile cage thermometer to measure the temperature.

Owners often think that leaving an animal in a car for "just a minute" while they run an errand is safe. This is not true. Even cars that are parked in the shade with windows down leave an animal vulnerable to serious illness or death. I have personally seen vehicles parked in the shade with windows down, but due to no ventilation the temperature in the car was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the dog was suffering and had to receive immediate veterinary care. 

While the law covers all animals, dogs are especially vulnerable to heat-related illness because they can only cool off by panting and through the pads in their feet. Dogs can only withstand a high body temperature for a short time before suffering nerve damage, heart problems, liver damage, brain damage or even death.

In conclusion, the Sheriff’s Office recommends that if you are in doubt, do not leave your animal in your vehicle.

—Sgt. Steve Carney

Cathy P. June 26, 2012 at 06:32 PM
"Senate Bill 1806 by Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, makes it illegal for pet owners to leave their animals in an enclosed vehicle under dangerous conditions starting in January 2007. The new law is designed to protect animals from being cooped up in cars during a summer heat wave or winter frost. Penalties range from an initial maximum $100 fine for an unattended animal that suffers little bodily harm to a $500 penalty and up to six months in county jail for a second offense." (Sac Bee, 9/22/2006)
Dog training April 29, 2013 at 01:48 PM
Buy a gentle leader for your dog. These specially designed head halters pull the dog's head downward when you pull on the leash. As soon as your dog exhibits the slightest aggression, pull gently but firmly on his leash and the gentle leader will make him lower his head, breaking his eye contact with the other dog and averting a fight. Thanks for sharing. Regards, http://www.dogrelationsnyc.com/services


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