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Would You Break A Car Window to Save A Dog?

I know the answer to this question is YES for most of us.

If a dog was truly in danger, most dog lovers would consider breaking a window to rescue the dog.

However, most of the time, a dog left in the car is not in serious danger.

A story went around recently where a man in Georgia broke a woman’s car window in order to “rescue” a small dog. Here’s a link to one version of the story.

The news stations loved pointing out that the man was a veteran and that (so the story goes) he used a piece of his wife’s wheelchair to break the window.

And even though this man faced charges, he was portrayed as a hero. (Charges were later dropped, but the dog’s owner was cited for leaving her dog in a hot car.)

And then, as usual, all the comments on this story were about how “awful” the dog’s owner was for leaving her dog in the car, even though she claimed she was gone just 5 minutes.

Dog waiting in the car

The dog’s owner is not interviewed in these stories. We do not get to hear her side. Perhaps she chose not to comment, but there is no indication of that in the stories. Instead, she is non-existent. Not pictured. No real mention.

Meanwhile, USA Today reported that PETA is giving the veteran a “Compassionate Action Award.”

Since PETA’s involved, the whole situation is even more sketchy to me.

I’m reminded of this picture I saw floating around on Facebook this week:

Please do not break windows Big Lebowski reference

It summarizes how I feel about dogs in cars.

I leave my dog Ace alone in the car too. Sometimes for 10 or 15 minutes.

I left him in the car last weekend for about 10 minutes while it was 96 degrees outside in the valley. I did not crack the windows at all because it was cooler in the car than outside.

Our car is new and it seems to maintain the temperature fairly well. We parked in the shade. The AC had been blasting for hours.

[quote_right]I would have been pissed off had anyone gone near our car to even think about ‘rescuing’ our dog.[/quote_right]My husband and I went into Subway together to order food. We could’ve taken turns so someone was always with Ace, but we knew this was not necessary.

While standing in line, I could look out the window and see my dog. I knew he would be just fine for that amount of time and he was.

We took our sandwiches to go so we could sit outside and eat them with our dog.

I would have been pissed off had anyone gone near our car to even think about “rescuing” our dog.

Of course, there are dogs that truly do need rescuing when left alone in hot cars. But those examples are rare.

Even if breaking a car window is really a legitimate option, there are still other risks to consider.

Reasons not to break a window to save a dog


  • The glass or force could injure the dog or the person breaking the window.
  • The dog could get loose and get hit by a car or lost.
  • The dog could bite the “rescuer” or someone else.


Plus, it’s not all that easy for most people to break a car window. I don’t even know how I’d go about doing so.

What to do instead of breaking a window:


  • Call local law enforcement.
  • Contact nearby business managers/employees to see if they can track down the dog’s owner.
  • Pour water to the dog if possible.
  • Wait around for 10-15 minutes for the owner, without acting like a psycho when she returns! 🙂


Just because a dog is panting and “distressed” doesn’t mean it truly needs “rescuing.” I’d be more concerned if the dog was breathing heavily but lying on his side & having trouble moving.

A lot of dogs pant all the time just because they’re anxious about life in general, poorly socialized or full of pent-up energy. They don’t need rescuing. They just need exercise.

Consider breaking the window as a last resort, but only after considering the above risks/consequences.

Did you hear about the story with the veteran breaking a car window? What did you think about that story?

Have you ever had to save a dog from a hot car?

Related posts:

Do you leave your dog in the car for 10 minutes?

How long can my dog be in a hot car?

Florida police K9s die in hot car

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Saturday 22nd of October 2016

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Saturday 29th of August 2015

August 2015

My wife and I were on vacation in Washington in August. On August 10, we drove up to see Mount St. Helens at Johnston Ridge. Since dogs were not allowed beyond the parking lot, we left him in our truck for a few minutes so that I could take some photos of the volcano. Our dog has separation anxiety and does not like being left alone. He immediately started barking and jumping around inside the truck. He is a border collie, and this is just what he does.

A family from Baltimore saw this behavior and decided he needed to be rescued. They threw items around in the back of my truck, and broke the rear sliding window out. The glass was all over inside the cab of the truck. Our dog had pieces of glass dropping out of his fur for days afterward. I'm grateful they didn’t get any of it into his eyes.

There was no reason to break the window. The dog was stressed from being left alone, not from being left in a hot car (which it wasn’t). A couple of them had even gone into the visitors center and gave them our license plate number, and make of truck. We were paged, and immediately went out to the truck. That is when we encountered a Forest Service employee holding onto our dog with a leash at the back of our truck.

I have a police report of the incident. They reported that the dog had been left alone for ten minutes (it's in the report).

I found out who they were and have been trying to get them to pay for the window. The father is a big time attorney and sent me an email indicating that I could be sued, and should have been jailed and fined for leaving the dog in the car. Furthermore, he stated that our dog had been left in the car for at least 45 minutes, that he was foaming from the mouth, and that he had red gums. He went on to indicate that a Vet made the diagnosis that our dog was suffering from heat prostration. I think this was a magical Vet that only they could see because no Vet was involved in their diagnosis. When we arrived back at the truck, our dog was laying calmly next to a full bowl of water, and showed no signs of stress whatsoever. This man has a vivid imagination and is trying to justify his family breaking the law.

The interior of the truck (which is charcoal gray) was not even warm. You say, well the window had been opened, and the heat had rushed out. I felt the steering wheel and the dash (which do not cool down quickly), and they were slightly warm. It was 74 degrees and overcast. OUR DOG WAS HAVING A PANIC ATTACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Period.

These assholes broke our window for nothing, and then fled like the cowards they are. I stayed behind and gave my name, phone number and any other information the Forest Service employees asked for. I spoke to Mike from the Humane Society and gave him all of my information. He told me that these people were very rude and nasty to him. I visited the Sherriff's office the next day, and gave them my information. Never one time did anyone even suggest that I had broken a law, or should be issued a fine. We took our dog to a Vet on the same day. He told me that our dog had the worst anxiety that he had seen in 50 years of practice. He gave us some tranquilizers to give to the dog.

These people ruined the last week of our vacation. We were afraid to go anywhere without taking the dog; even to the restroom during fuel stops for fear some other bleeding heart do-gooder would do the same thing.

Since I returned home, I have had my old facebook account hacked into, and facebook (or someone) closed it down. My Yahoo account was also closed (no reason given).

Lindsay Stordahl

Saturday 29th of August 2015

Wow. That is exactly what I mean. I am sorry to hear you have had to deal with this. I'm glad your dog is OK.


Friday 26th of June 2015

I read the story and was at first on his side. But I did notice that there was a lot of information missing from the story and it made me wonder. Still, though, I think in most situations it is a bad idea to leave pets and/or kids alone in the car. Your situation sounds fine. You were very aware of the dangers and acted to alleviate them. Not everyone is aware. They don't realize how hot it can get and how quickly. They don't realize there are people out there who will tease the poor dog while the owner is gone and even people who will steal the dog. I agree with all the points you made about the reasons not to break the window and what to do instead. However, if the dog is in obvious stress, I'm breaking that damned window!

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 26th of June 2015

All good points. Yes, if a dog is in obvious real danger I'd probably break a window too. All depends on the situation.


Friday 26th of June 2015

Definitely good to think from the other person's perspective! Not all dogs need to be forcibly rescued ;)


Thursday 25th of June 2015

I really think it depends on each actual situation. The whole thing gets so overblown this time of year, a lot of people just act before thinking. Unless there is obvious dire need, I would suggest calling for help first.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 25th of June 2015

Yep, I just think it's so overblown as well. Common sense can go a long way!