CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – With the warmer temperatures heading into summer, it’s important to protect animals from the heat. But, there’s some confusion about what you can and can’t do if you see an animal in a locked car on a hot day.

Dogs don’t sweat or get rid of body heat like humans, so never leave a dog or any animal in a hot car, or outside in hot temperatures because it could cost them their life.

When the temperatures get to 70 and above, the inside of a car in sunlight can easily be 20 to 50 degrees hotter than the outside temperature.

“In a matter of minutes an animal’s body temperature can spiral out of control and if they’re not given some relief quickly then they can easily pass away from it,” said Eric Lee, Vet at Kanawha Boulevard Animal Hospital said.

Many people want to take their pets out to run errands, but if they can’t go inside the store it’s best to leave them at home.

“They’ll start to pant, lips come back, mouth is open. As they get hotter, they’re going to get more and more distressed becoming frantic trying to get some relief,” Lee said. “They may even become recumbent in the car -laying down, unable to rise, weak, losing consciousness.”

As of 2020, 28 states have laws on the books specifically prohibiting leaving dogs in hot cars, and 11 of them have a law giving people the right to break into a car to protect the animal. Ohio is on that second list, but West Virginia and Kentucky are not.

“If you do see someone that has an animal locked in the car, you should try to get that vehicle information like the license plate number, the color, the make and the model,” Virgil White, South Charleston Fire Chief said.

On average, his department gets about 15 to 20 calls a year for animals left in a vehicle, which the department says is way too many.

“In an instance, they’re suffering from a heat stroke, we could use cold packs, wet rags to try to cool them down a revive them.”

Vets remind people to walk their dogs early in the morning or late in the evening – and check the concrete with your hand to make sure it’s not too hot.