Dear Critter Chat,

I was at a party last week and on my way out I saw a dog in a car with the windows rolled up. It was hotter than heck that day. I went back to the house and the lady holding the party said the car belonged to one of her guests.  The guy refused to take his dog out of the car, even though my friend said he could bring the dog into the house.  I’m furious with the man and angry with my friend for not making the man leave the party.  Am I making a big deal about nothing?


Dear Steamed,

You are not making a big deal about nothing. In fact, you could–and should–have made a BIGGER deal about this.

Every year dogs suffer–and even die–because their owners don’t realize how blooming hot it gets inside a car. Even on a not-so-warm day. Even with the windows rolled down an inch or two.

Here’s what the California legislature had to say about the issue when it enacted a law making it a crime to leave animals unattended in vehicles under circumstances that could cause suffering, injury, or death:

“Moderately warm temperatures outside can quickly lead to deadly temperatures inside a closed car, for example, within one hour an outside temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit can cause unhealthful conditions inside a vehicle that can adversely affect the health, safety, or well-being of an animal.

With the vehicle windows left slightly open, an outside temperature of 85 degrees can cause a temperature of 102 degrees inside a vehicle within 10 minutes, and 120 degrees within half of an hour. A healthy dog, whose normal body temperature ranges from 101 to 102.5 degrees, can withstand a body temperature of 107 to 108 for only a short time before suffering brain damage or death.”

The fact that this yutz was told he can bring the dog into the house and chose, instead, to leave it in a hot car tells me that he’s long on ego, short on concern for his dog. What you could have done was call animal control if the dog didn’t appear to be in distress and the police if it did.

Critter Chat is a weekly column from attorney Deborah Knaan, who seeks to answer your animal-related questions. Email questions to with subject line CRITTER CHAT.