Is It Illegal To Leave Your Dog in The Car in North Carolina? Here’s What Law Says

Summer brings sunshine, vacations, and plenty of outdoor fun. But for pet owners, it’s also a crucial time to prioritize the safety of our furry companions. The scorching temperatures that blanket cities like Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, can pose a significant threat to dogs left unattended in parked cars.

Many people underestimate how quickly a car’s interior can transform into a sweltering furnace, even on seemingly mild days. This can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition for dogs. Knowing the laws and taking precautions can help ensure your dog enjoys the summer safely alongside you.

This article will delve into the specifics of North Carolina’s law regarding leaving pets in unattended vehicles. We’ll explore the legal ramifications, the importance of this legislation, and offer safe alternatives for taking your dog out in North Carolina during the hot summer months. Finally, we’ll provide guidance on what to do if you encounter a dog in distress left inside a hot car.

North Carolina Law on Leaving Pets in Cars

North Carolina General Statute 14-363.3 clearly prohibits the cruel or inhumane transport of animals in vehicles. This law applies to situations where an animal is confined in a motor vehicle under conditions that can lead to “suffering, injury, or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or overcrowding.”

The key takeaway here is that the law doesn’t just target leaving pets in extremely hot cars. It encompasses any situation where the car’s environment poses a risk to the animal’s well-being.

For instance, leaving a dog in a car with no shade or proper ventilation on a chilly morning could still be considered a violation if it leads to the animal suffering from hypothermia.

Why is This Law Important?

Leaving a dog in a parked car, even for a short period, can be incredibly dangerous. Car interiors heat up rapidly, exceeding outside temperatures by a significant margin within minutes. Dogs, unlike humans, cannot sweat effectively to regulate their body temperature. This puts them at a high risk of heatstroke, a condition that can lead to organ failure, seizures, and even death.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, a parked car can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes on a hot day, even with the windows cracked open. Studies have shown that even at temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a car’s interior can become dangerously hot for pets.

It’s important to note that North Carolina’s law regarding pets in cars aligns with similar legislation in place across the United States. For example, Atlanta, Georgia, also has a law that prohibits leaving animals unattended in a vehicle under conditions that could cause harm.

Safe Alternatives for Taking Your Dog Out in North Carolina

There are many ways to enjoy summer outings in North Carolina with your dog without putting them at risk. Here are a few tips:

  • Plan errands efficiently: When running errands, try to minimize the amount of time your dog spends in the car. Leave them at home if possible, ensuring they have access to plenty of water and a cool, comfortable space.
  • Leave your dog at home with proper precautions: If you must leave your dog at home, make sure they have fresh, cool water readily available. Provide them with a cool, shaded area to rest, such as a basement or bathroom with tile floors. Consider using a cooling mat or fan to help them stay comfortable.
  • Utilize pet-friendly stores and businesses: Many stores and businesses in North Carolina cities like Asheville and Charlotte welcome well-behaved dogs. Look for businesses that advertise themselves as “dog-friendly” or have signs welcoming canine companions.
  • Plan doggy playdates at parks: If you’re planning a trip to a park, consider coordinating a playdate with another dog owner. This allows your dog to socialize and have fun while you enjoy some outdoor time together.
  • Early morning or evening outings: If an errand absolutely requires your dog to come along, schedule it for the cooler hours of the day, either early morning before the sun gets too high, or in the evening after the temperature has dropped.
  • Invest in car cooling accessories: There are various car cooling accessories available that can help regulate the temperature in your vehicle These include sunshades for the windshield and windows, portable fans that plug into the cigarette lighter, and even cooling mats for your dog to lie on.

Taking Action if You See a Dog Left in a Hot Car in North Carolina

If you encounter a dog left unattended in a hot car in North Carolina, it’s crucial to act quickly and assess the situation. Here’s what you should do:

  • Observe the dog’s condition: Look for signs of heatstroke, such as excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, glazed eyes, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Try to locate the owner: Check around the car for the owner and see if there’s a phone number listed on the window.
  • Contact animal control: If the dog appears to be in distress and you cannot locate the owner, immediately contact your local animal control agency. Provide them with the car’s location and description, and explain the dog’s condition.

What NOT to do:

  • Do not break into the car: It’s understandable to want to help a dog in distress, but breaking into a car is illegal and can lead to charges being pressed against you.
  • Do not leave a note: While leaving a note for the owner might seem helpful, it’s not an effective solution in an emergency situation.


North Carolina law clearly prohibits leaving pets in unattended vehicles under conditions that could cause harm. This law is essential in protecting animals from the dangers of heatstroke and other environmental hazards. As pet owners, it’s our responsibility to be aware of the risks and take necessary precautions to keep our furry companions safe during the hot summer months.

By planning outings effectively, utilizing pet-friendly businesses, and knowing what to do in case you encounter a dog in distress, we can all ensure that our canine friends enjoy a happy and healthy summer in North Carolina. Remember, responsible pet ownership is key to creating lasting summer memories with your furry best friend.

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MBS Staff
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