Florida’s Laws About Leaving a Dog in Your Car

Leaving your dog in the car in Florida is considered animal cruelty and can result in a hefty fine and/or misdemeanor charge.
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Pat Roache
Leaving a dog unattended in a vehicle, regardless of the temperature outside, can land you with a $500 fine and a second-degree misdemeanor for animal cruelty.
It can be tempting to drop by the mall and leave Fido in the backseat for a few minutes. However, doing so in
can land you with some pretty serious penalties. That’s because, although the state doesn’t have a specific dog-in-car law, confining your pet in a vehicle and leaving them unattended falls under animal cruelty and negligence laws.
Here are all the details about laws around leaving your dog in your car in Florida—and what to do if you see a dog unattended in a vehicle.

Can you leave a dog in the car in Florida?

No. Even though Florida doesn’t have a specific dog-in-car law, leaving an unattended dog in a car falls under animal cruelty and negligence laws.
Temperatures inside your vehicle can rise quickly. For example, if the temperature outside is 78 degrees Fahrenheit, it can be as hot as 160 degrees inside your vehicle. And it only takes a few minutes for temperatures to rise—even in winter. With this inescapable heat, your dog may suffer irreversible organ damage and even death.
Your pet may suffer heatstroke if left alone in a vehicle, even if the window is cracked open. Heavy panting, profuse salivation, rapid pulse, lack of coordination, and red gums and tongue are all signs of severe heatstroke. Again, it only takes a few minutes for your dog to suffer these effects, so never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle.
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Does Florida law ever allow you to leave a dog in the car?

No. A 2020 law stipulates that a dog or young child should never be left unattended in a vehicle with the engine running—some Florida county ordinances also prohibit a pet from being locked in a car without supervision. Even if the window is open, you risk harm and serious legal consequences if you leave your dog in your car.
MORE: How to check for Florida road closures

Penalties for violating Florida’s dog-in-car law

There are serious repercussions for pet owners who leave a dog unattended in a vehicle in Florida. At best, you’ll be facing a $500 fine. However, you could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor or worse depending on the degree of harm caused to your pet.
There are additional county ordinances that come into play depending on where you are in the Sunshine State. For example, Lee County Ordinance number 09–20 section 23 stipulates that animal control or law enforcement officers can use any means necessary to remove an animal from a car when it’s been left unattended in dangerous conditions. 

What to do if you see a dog in a hot car in Florida

Maybe you’ve seen it before: you’re walking through the grocery store parking lot and notice a dog panting in the front seat of a locked vehicle. What should you do? If you see a dog left alone in a parked car, there are steps you can take to ensure the dog’s safety.
First, consider where the vehicle is parked and how the dog is acting, paying attention to if:
  • The car is in direct sunlight
  • A window has been left open for ventilation
  • There is a water source for the dog in the vehicle
  • The dog is panting or appears lethargic or unresponsive
If you have a reasonable belief that the dog is at risk or is in distress, immediately call 911 and stay at the scene until help arrives. First responders will arrive and can safely remove the pet from imminent danger.
In some cases, you may be asked to try and remove the dog from the hot car, but you should never try to break into a vehicle without first calling 911. Good Samaritan laws can protect you from civil liability, but only in extreme cases.
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If you leave a dog in a hot car in Florida, you can be charged a $500 fine and a misdemeanor of the second degree for animal cruelty. Some Florida counties have additional ordinances and penalties, so make sure you’re familiar with the laws in your area.
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