MSPCA: Here’s What To Do If You See A Pet In Heat Distress In A Parked Car

BOSTON, MA — The newly arrived scorching temperatures are on the minds of officials at two of Boston’s premier animal protection agencies. This week, the MSPCA-Angell and the Animal Rescue League of Boston has joined forces to ensure Commonwealth residents know how to respond when encountering an animal in heat distress.

The two organizations, as well as law enforcement officers, animal advocates, and other entities, worked together last year to pass “An Act Preventing Animal Suffering and Death” into law. The law, now in effect, gives animal control officers, law enforcement officers, and firefighters the authority to remove an animal from a car and cite the owner when extreme heat (or cold) is reasonably likely to threaten the animal’s health or safety. It also provides the public with the ability to help an animal in a car, but only under certain specific circumstances.

Saving a Pet in Distress

The MSPCA and Animal Rescue League of Boston encourage all citizens to understand what steps to take if they see an animal in a car in distress.

“The law dictates very specific steps before intervening. The very first thing a person should do if they see a pet inside a locked car on a warm day is to call the police—then try to find the owner of the animal,” said MSPCA-Angell Advocacy Director Kara Holmquist. “As a last resort, and if the animal is in immediate danger, the new law allows a person to remove the pet from the vehicle.”

Nadine Pellegrini, who directs the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s advocacy efforts, including a “Too Hot for Spot” public awareness campaign about the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars, echoed those sentiments. “Giving police and concerned citizens the legal ability—following protocols set out in the law—to respond quickly and retrieve an animal will definitely save lives.” She stressed that the best approach is to guide law enforcement directly to the car as quickly as possible as they have special training and are better equipped to safely remove the animal from the car.

When Temps Rise, Every Second Counts

The inside of a car can soar to 100 degrees in ten minutes on an 80 degree day, even if the windows are slightly open. Animals trapped inside can die quickly if they are unable to cool themselves. “The best advice we could ever offer would be to simply leave our pets at home to avoid any possibility that they could end up stuck inside the car,” stated Mark W. McCabe, Director of Animal Control for the City of  Cambridge.

Danger signals to watch for in a dog or cat include heavy panting, rapid breathing, staggering, and weakness. A heat-stricken animal can die in minutes. If you find an animal in heat distress, immediately bring the animal to a shady spot. If possible, cool the animal by dousing them completely with water or placing them in cool water. An owner, law enforcement official or first responder should take the distressed pet to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

More information about “An Act Preventing Animal Suffering and Death”, as well as a decision-making tree, can be found at

About MSPCA-Angell

The MSPCA-Angell is a national and international leader in animal protection and veterinary medicine and provides direct hands-on care for thousands of animals each year. Founded in 1868, it is the second-oldest humane society in the United States. Services include animal protection and adoption, advocacy, humane education, law enforcement, and world-class veterinary care. The MSPCA-Angell is a private, non-profit organization. It does not receive any government funding nor is it funded or operated by any national humane organization. The MSPCA-Angell relies solely on the support and contributions from individuals who care about animals. Please and like us on Facebook at

(NOTE: The above press release is from MSPCA-Angell.)

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