Can I Leave My Dog In The Car At Night?

Leaving a dog in a car at night should only ever
be used as a last resort ¹

Before you get mad as a hornet, please hear me out first. First of all, I love my dogs, and I also know it might not be safe to leave them in the car. However, I do understand why other owners don’t have a choice but to leave their dogs in a car at night.

Maybe they couldn’t find a nearby hotel that would allow pets or had to leave them for work.

It is also possible that they are travelling alone and can’t find a dog-friendly accommodation. It solely depends on the situation of the owner and the needs of their pet.

And if you ever get into one of those situations, there are laws and precautions that you need to know.

Can you leave a dog in a car at night in the U.S.?

There are a number of states in the U.S. that have a specific law that prohibits leaving an animal locked up under a dangerous condition. 

As of now, 31 states are implementing this law:

New HampshireNew JerseyNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota
Ohio OregonPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth Dakota
TennesseeVermontVirginiaWashingtonWest Virginia
31 U.S. states are currently implementing tougher animal welfare laws..

Although some states do not technically prohibit owners leaving their dog in a car, they still have local ordinances that protect animals from abuse and cruelty. So leaving your dog in a car without protection from extreme heat or cold and don’t have enough ventilation in it, can be considered as animal cruelty.

Also, don’t be surprised if someone breaks your car window to rescue your dog as some states are allowing it and they provide civil immunity (protection from being sued). These 15 states are:

15 U.S. states allow citizens to smash a car window if they see a dog in distress…
What are the laws for dogs and cars in the U.K? ²

It is pretty much the same as other states in the US. It is not illegal to leave your dog in a car. However, if your dog becomes ill or died as a result of leaving them unattended, you will be charged with animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. You could face up to 6 months in prison, get fined and a ban on keeping animals.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention to Animals, you should never leave your dog in a car, even if windows were left open, as it is still dangerous. According to a study, it could quickly get unbearably hot or cold inside an enclosed car.

There are some very good arguments for never
leaving your dog in a car day or night…³

If you are in a situation where you have no choice, you need to be aware of the possible dangers to your dog so you could find a way to avoid it. 

Depending on the weather condition, they could either become ill or die due to heat exhaustion or heat stroke inside the car. 

A dog can only withstand a high body temperature for a short period before they suffer from nerve or brain damage resulting in death. 

If you left them alone in a cold car during winter for too long, they could develop hypothermia which could result in cardiac and respiratory failure and even death. Also, Frostbite is harder to detect and may not show up immediately.

You have to remember that some breeds can be more susceptible to heatstroke or extreme cold. Breeds like bulldogs, pugs, Shih Tzus can have a hard time breathing in extreme heat while short-haired dogs feel the cold faster because they have less protection. 

Keep in mind also that if your dog is suffering from diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or hormonal imbalances, they may have a harder time regulating their body temperatures. So heat and cold tolerance can vary from pet to pet based on their coat, muzzles, health and even their weight. 

Your dog also might suffer from loneliness and separation anxiety if you were away for too long.

Finally, if you left the car windows open, it is possible that not only your dog gets stolen but also your precious car. 

What are safe temperatures for dogs in cars?

The temperature in cars can change very quickly ⁴

A car is a bit like a tin can in the way that it reacts to extreme hot and cold temperatures- by this I mean that it gets hot and cold very quickly.

Most dogs can probably still survive and do well under moderate temperatures (under 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit). However, we should not be complacent as it can get hot quickly. So, make sure that they feel comfortable inside the car. 

If it is cold outside, it would be risky for other dogs if it drops to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it would be potentially life-threatening.

Advantages of leaving your dog in a car overnight

I bet you are thinking that there are no advantages for doing this to your dog after you read all that bad stuff. 

But actually, there are few advantages.

Sometimes it is not safe to leave your dogs alone at home. Dogs tend to get bored fast which could lead to all sorts of trouble and possible dangers. They might get themselves injured or they would attempt to escape from the house or eat something poisonous.

Would this sort of behaviour be allowed in a
hotel? ⁵

Leaving your dog in a car instead of letting them stay with you in a hotel room will save you money. Sometimes, no matter how much you trained your dogs, they can get overly excited and could cause trouble. It saves you from paying damages as well as time and energy to apologize to other customers for their excessive barking.

Another advantage that I could think of is that they could find comfort and peace inside your car as they might get stressed being around with strangers or when they are in an unfamiliar place. It also saves them from loneliness and separation anxiety. You need to consider their emotional state as it could also affect their physical state if they suffer from anxiety. 

Tips for successfully leaving your dog in a car overnight

There are several ways to ensure your dog’s safety and keep you from violating the law.

Buy your dog a smart collar which will enable
you to keep in touch….⁶
  1. Only consider doing this when you are sure that weather conditions would not put your dog in danger.
  2. Consider the location and conditions where to park the car. 
  3. Make sure that your dog has access to food and water. You can use non-spill drinking bowls to prevent spilling. You can also feed them before leaving your dog.
  4. Use GPS smart collar for dog or pet temperature monitor to receive alerts if it gets into extreme temperature. Make sure to check your dog right away once you get the alerts.
  5. Buy reflective window shades to reduce the temperature of your car and block the heat out.
  6. Use BreezeGuard or metal screen windows instead of leaving your car window open. BreezeGuard screens are custom made metal screens that fit your car’s window. 
  7. Provide blankets, sweater and bedding.
  8. Buy portable cooling fans for your dog. 
  9. Buy visible car thermometer. While this won’t help much your dog, it will help worried passers to calm down and at the same time, let them know if your dog is not okay, allowing them to save your dog if it comes to worst.
  10. Consider using crates with a locking door.
  11. If you had to leave your dog because of your work, make sure to check up on your dog during your break. 
  12. Prepare a disaster or emergency kit and create a disaster plan to keep your dog safe.
  13. Consider buying pet cooling pads or dog cooling vest. 

Alternatives to leaving your dog in a car at night

If you’re not sure if you can leave your dog in your car overnight, then there are other things you could do. 

You can look on the Internet to find pet-friendly hotels or Airbnb place nearby then rent a room for you and your dog. Some hotels don’t ask for an additional fee and even provide a bowl and pet bed for your room.

How about booking into a dog- friendly Airbnb? ⁷

If you have no other options, then you can leave your dog in a doggy daycare or boarding kennels to keep your dog safe. You might be less happy with this option but don’t worry as they have trained professionals to take care of your dog. Just be sure to do your research first about the place before taking your dog there and drop him off. Find out about important things like if there would be enough space for your dog to walk around, how many caretakers are there, or if the fee covers food and additional services.

Bottom Line

There are unfortunate times that you have to leave your dog in a car at night. Sometimes the owner doesn’t have much choice because of their situation and the needs of their pet. Let’s not judge these people immediately but instead help them. However, I hope that owners will only consider leaving their dog if they are sure that the weather condition won’t endanger their lives. They should plan well and make sure to equip the car with the necessary items to keep them safe. Lastly, they should consider other options like leaving their dogs in a daycare or boarding kennel instead.

Photo Credits

¹ Photo by Ian Battaglia on Unsplash

² Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

³ Photo by A n v e s h on Unsplash

⁴ Photo by Kasey McCoy on Unsplash

⁵ Photo by Alejandro Trinidad on Unsplash

⁶ Photo by Eddy Lackmann on Unsplash

⁷ Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash