Call cops if a dog is roasting in a hot car

I was at the Center Drive Walmart yesterday afternoon. The temperature was 82 degrees. Someone had left their two small dogs in their vehicle, presumably while they were in the store, the windows completely rolled up, car turned off. I struggled with what to do. I was fearful that if I did something to get them some air, the owner would come back to the car and potentially be angry. As a woman, I did not want to expose myself to any potential harm. What can I do in the situation? Is there a number I can call to report the abuse?

— Beth S., via email


The Medford Police Department addressed this very issue May 19 with a lengthy post on its Facebook page, Beth. The post talked about whether it is OK to break a window to rescue a pooch, but it also contained information on who to call if you're concerned about the welfare of a furry friend.

According to the post, "There is no law allowing or prohibiting rescuing a dog from a hot car. It just comes down to common sense."

Before you break a window, police advised, consider the following:

Is the dog showing signs of distress (excessive panting, tongue turning dark purple, behaving frantically, loss of bowels, lethargic)?

Summon help if the vehicle is parked near a business to have the owner of the car paged.

Call police at 541-770-4783 or 911 if the situation appears urgent.

If the dog is showing obvious signs of distress as noted above and there is no sign of the owner, you can break the window to save the dog, the post said.

"We have window-punch tools that make it easy to break a window, and we would prefer to be the ones to take on that responsibility and liability. However, we understand that we get tied up and simply can't get there in time. It is also a good idea to document the current conditions, and photograph or video the situation before you take action," police added.

"We are big dog lovers down here at MPD, and people who choose to leave their dog in a hot car will be facing a criminal charge of animal neglect at the very least, and perhaps a broken window."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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