Animal Services Division Reminds Pet Owners to Be Safe During Perilous Hot Weather Season - Leaving Pets Unattended Outdoors or in Vehicles Can Have Deadly Repercussions, and It's Against the Law

National Weather Service is predicting that temperatures will increase again over the next few weeks, also bringing increased humidity, thunderstorms, and high heat index values. Due to the high humidity, temperatures will be slow to cool at night. The Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center (MCASAC) reminds pet owners that this time of year presents several hazards to pets and that pet owners should be especially vigilant during summer months.

Extreme Weather/Weather Emergency

The Montgomery County Office of Animal Services will enforce Executive Regulation 17-17, Anti Cruelty Conditions for Dogs and Other Pets, Section 4. In the event of an extreme weather situation or weather emergency, owners must not leave a pet unattended outdoors. Pet owners are advised to be particularly careful with pets in vehicles during high outdoor temperatures and be familiar with the signs of heat stress. This regulation will be enforced as long as and whenever, the Weather Service issues an Excessive Heat Warning. During a Heat Emergency Alert, outdoor housing for an animal, as described in 17-17, Section 3, is inadequate and further measures must be taken to provide adequate cooling, as approved by the Executive Director.

Pets in Vehicles

Pets who are left unattended in vehicles are particularly vulnerable to heat-related injuries. On an 85 degree day, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes, even with the windows cracked. If the vehicle is parked in direct sunlight, the temperature inside may rise up 40 degrees an hour. Pets are in danger of heat-stroke at 110 degrees. Pets left unattended in vehicles can suffer brain and organ damage after just 15 minutes. Under Chapter 5, 201(a) (13), pet owners can be issued a civil citation of $500 for leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle. In addition, pet owners may also face the possibility that their pet could be removed from the vehicle and the owner charged criminally for animal cruelty, under the Maryland Criminal Law 10-604.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can be dangerous, even fatal, for pets. In many cases it can be prevented by keeping them indoors, in shaded areas, and providing them with plenty of water. Heat exhaustion can quickly progress into heat stroke which can be fatal; therefore, it is important for pet owners to know the symptoms (which are similar for both dogs and cats). These symptoms include restlessness, panting, increased respiratory rate, increased heart rate, excess salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea.
If you believe that a pet is suffering from heat stress, move them into a shaded or an air-conditioned area, apply cold towels to their head, neck and chest or run cool (not cold) water over them, and encourage them drink small amounts of cool water. Most importantly, pets suffering from heat stress need to be taken directly to a veterinarian and seen immediately.


Animals may become extremely frightened during a thunderstorm and can escape an enclosure, such as a fenced yard. Pet owners should take animals inside during violent wind and rain storms. Pet owners should also keep the necessary identification on their pets' collars for situations when they may become separated. During a storm, pets must either be brought indoors or have adequate shelter to protect them from the elements. Shelters for pets housed outdoors must meet the criteria under Montgomery County Executive Regulation 17-17 Anti-Cruelty Conditions for Dogs and Other Pets, Section 3.

Anyone that is concerned that an animal is in immediate danger should call 9-1-1. To have an Animal Services Officer Dispatched in a non-emergency situation, patrons can call 301.279.8000. More information about Montgomery County Animal Control Laws can be found at: