Denver Animal Protection Warns Residents About Dangers of Leaving Pets Unattended in Hot Vehicles

DENVER – As temperatures across Denver hit close to 90 today, Denver Animal Protection (DAP) is reminding residents of the dangers of leaving pets unattended in hot vehicles.

Since the beginning of 2019, DAP has received about 200 calls regarding dogs left inside vehicles during extreme temperatures. Leaving your pet in an overheated car could result in a summons for animal cruelty, a fine of up to $999 and/or 300 days in jail.

“Every year, dogs suffer when their owners leave them in a parked car ‘just for a second.’ But that second can stretch into minutes. And that’s all it takes for an animal to suffer heatstroke and potentially die,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “No animal or person should be left in a car during Denver’s summer months. I want people to understand just how quickly the temperature rises inside a car.”

“Temperatures inside a vehicle can reach 120F in a matter of minutes, even with the windows cracked,” said Lieutenant Josh Rolfe with Denver Animal Protection. “The best way to keep your pet safe during hot weather is to leave your pet at home.”

If you see a dog in a hot car immediately call 311 and familiarize yourself with the Good Samaritan law that provides legal immunity for people who break a car window to save an animal. To ensure immunity:

  • You must believe the animal is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury.
  • The vehicle must be locked.
  • You must make a ‘reasonable effort’ to find the vehicle’s owner.
  • You must contact Denver Police Department, Denver Fire Department or DAP before you enter the vehicle.
  • You cannot use more force than is necessary to free the animal.
  • If you do break a window, you must remain with the animal and on the scene until police or DAP officers arrive.

DAP also offers the following tips for protecting your pet from the summer heat:

  • Do not transport animals in pick-up truck beds. It is illegal to let dogs ride loose in pick-up truck beds. Hot metal can also burn their paws. And exposure to direct sunlight can be just as harmful as being left in an enclosed vehicle.
  • Ensure pets are groomed. An unkempt coat can keep an animal from properly regulating its temperature.
  • Avoid excess exercise with your pet when it’s hot outside.
  • Be mindful of hot pavement that can burn your pet’s feet.  
  • Provide adequate shelter from the elements, as well as access to fresh water. Denver city ordinance requires pets have adequate outdoor shelter such as a dog house, porch area, or a similar structure that allows an animal to escape the elements.

The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE), Denver’s nationally-accredited public health agency, empowers Denver’s communities to live better, longer. The divisions of DDPHE are: Administration, Animal Protection, Community & Behavioral Health, Environmental Quality, Office of Sustainability, Office of the Medical Examiner and Public Health Investigations. In partnership with Denver Public Health, DDPHE provides quality public health services to the City and County of Denver.  For more information about DDPHE, or follow us at

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