Depending on which calendar you choose to follow we’re either in the Dog Days of Summer or they’re fast approaching, in any case it’s getting to be pretty darned hot out there. In the news lately have been several reportings of both dogs and kids left in cars, in the hot sun, windows up, and fatalities ensued.

There is a case in Georgia of a father who left his 2-year-old son in the car, in the sun, came back at lunch to put something in the car, didn’t notice his son, and returned 5 hours later, still didn’t notice his son, and then drove off, and only THEN realized his son was in the car and had died. Now I don’t have a child. I’m not this man’s attorney, and I am by no means infallible, however, there seems to me to be something very wrong with his story.

I am highly doubtful about many elements of his explanations. I just don’t believe this story of his returning to the car, and not noticing his kid in the car seat. Don’t children’s diapers usually get stinky after about three hours and need to be changed?

Wouldn’t most parents when they returned to a car reflexively look at the car seat? I don’t know. I do know my own experience at living with a dog who goes with me almost everywhere.

My dog has a booster seat in the back of my car behind the passenger’s seat. I look at that seat, even when I know I don’t have my dog with me, automatically. It’s such an engrained behavior at this point that I would have to consciously work very hard to not look.

When you care for another living creature, you learn to do certain things as a safety measure. For example, when I put the rear window up by my dog’s booster seat, I always do a visual check by turning my head to make sure he hasn’t stuck his head out of the window. The thought that I could put the window up and catch him in it is so horrific to me that I always look back before pulling the switch.

The other thing I do, is park in covered parking lots. I appear in courts all around the southland, from Ventura to San Diego. I know which courts have covered parking and which ones don’t. I love going to court in Ventura – that beautiful morning drive up the coast is relaxing and enjoyable – but they don’t have a safe place for me to park and leave my dog in the car – so he either stays home or goes to daycare.

Around town it’s the same thing. He’ll come with me when I go to Promenade, and the gym, but if I don’t know of a safe place that is shaded for me to park, he’s not going.

I’m a bit of a fanatic perhaps. I wouldn’t think twice of breaking someone’s window if they left their dog in the car and he was in crisis – the same way I wouldn’t think twice if it was a child. If I see your dog in your car, and they’re panting heavily, the windows are up, and the sun is out, you’ll probably be buying a window and talking to the cops about animal cruelty charges.

California Penal Code ¬ß597.7 defines the crime of animal cruelty as when you “Leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”

This summer let’s all be a little more alert out there. The weather is heating up and we can all be a bit more aware of our surroundings. If you see an animal in a car that is overheating, do something. Call the police – they’re empowered to take custody of the dog and will do all necessary measures, if you don’t want to break the window yourself.

If your dog is with you like mine, be more mindful that they can overheat quickly in a car that’s in the sun. Think about your trip, plan your parking, and you’ll find that it quickly becomes an easy habit.

Do it for you, do it for the dogs.


David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.


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