Yes, it’s illegal to leave a dog in a hot car in NC. But can you break in to help?

As temperatures rise in North Carolina, pet owners should be cautious about leaving animals inside their cars.

Confinement to a hot car is the leading cause of heat stroke in dogs, according to the American Kennel Club.

Transporting an animal in a vehicle in conditions “that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation” is illegal in North Carolina, state law says. Those found guilty of leaving a dog in a hot car can be charged with a misdemeanor.

But if you’re tempted to rescue a pet from a hot car, here’s what you should do first.

According to state law, only animal control officers, animal cruelty investigators, law enforcement officers, firefighters and rescue squad workers can break into a vehicle to save a suffering animal after “making a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person responsible for the animal.”

How hot is too hot?

According to a 2005 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, outside temperatures of around 70 degrees can heat the inside of a car to over 115 degrees within minutes.

Dogs experience heat exhaustion when their body temperature hits 103 degrees, according to pet food company Hill’s Pet Nutrition. It’s typically safe to leave your dog in the car for no more than five minutes when the outside temperature is above freezing and below 70 degrees, pet health author Jean-Marie Bauhaus wrote on Hill’s blog.

If you have a passenger in the car with you, have them stay behind and keep the air conditioning running.

Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs

Here are the symptoms of heat stroke in dogs, according to the American Kennel Club:

  • Heavy panting

  • Rapid breathing

  • Excessive drooling

  • Bright red gums and tongue

  • Skin hot to touch

  • High heart rate

Some cars have safety modes

Some cars have modes that allow you to keep your car cool while you’re not in it, but they aren’t recommended for long periods of time.

For example, Tesla owners can control the inside of their car’s temperatures with an app.

According to the electric vehicle company, the “dog” function maintains a comfortable cabin temperature for pets while left alone inside the car.

When in dog mode, the car’s touchscreen will display the inside temperature to inform those walking by that the pet is safe.

The setting should only be used for short periods of time while the pet owner is close by, according to Tesla.