State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles

by Rebecca F. Wisch
Animal Legal & Historical Center
Publish Date: 2008 (updated 2010)
Place of Publication: Michigan State University College of Law Printable Version

Is it illegal to leave your dog in a parked car?  The answer to this question, of course, depends on in the state in which you live.  Actually, only 14 states (AZ, CA, IL, ME, MD, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NY, ND, SD, VT, and WV) have statutes that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle.  The next factor important to the question is the condition under which the the animal is left in the vehicle.  Most of these laws provide that the animal must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle.  Further, the laws add that in order for a person to violate the law, the conditions have to endanger the animal’s life.  Some of the statutes specifically state that extreme hot or cold temperatures, lack of adequate ventilation, or failing to provide proper food or drink meet this definition.  Other laws are more vague and just require that the conditions are such that physical injury or death is likely to result.

While not all states have laws that address animals in parked vehicles, numerous local ordinances prohibit this, and more may be enacted.  It is critical then that owners are aware of their local laws concerning this subject.  Even with out a state or local law, this action could still constitute cruelty under some circumstances.  In fact, in the Texas case of Lopez v. State, the defendant left his dog in his car on a hot day to go and watch a movie in a theater.  He was ultimately convicted under the state’s anti-cruelty law.  Notably, Texas does not have a statute that specifically addresses dogs left in parked vehicles.  Below is a table that describes these laws by outlining the major concerns within the laws.

Table of States with Laws Prohibiting Inhumane Confinement of Animals in Parked Motor Vehicle

State Citation and Link Animals Covered Circumstances Prohibited Penalty Rescue Provisions
AZ AZ ST § 13-2910


An animal (“animal” means a mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian) Unattended and confined in a motor vehicle and physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result.


Class 1 misdemeanor A peace officer, animal control enforcement agent or animal control enforcement deputy may use reasonable force to open a vehicle to rescue an animal.


CA CA PENAL § 597.7


An animal 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.


First conviction: fine not exceeding $100 per animal.

If the animal suffers great bodily injury, a fine not exceeding $500, imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 6 months, or by both.

Any subsequent violation of this section, regardless of injury to the animal, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500, imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both.


Peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer is authorized to take all steps that are reasonably necessary for the removal of an animal from a motor vehicle.

Must leave written notice bearing his or her name and office, and the address of the location where the animal can be claimed.

IL 510 ILCS 70/7.1


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