It’s 9 a.m. and already 80 degrees; we’re in for a scorcher today. Like any other day, the phone calls begin to come in to Marin Humane for various issues related to animals. I brace myself for the number of calls we’ll get from people reporting dogs left in hot cars.

It’s noon and 95 degrees outside when the call comes in. Someone has left his dog in the car at the mall. My heart starts to race as I take the information as quickly as I can. My main focus is to get the animal services officer there as soon as possible, but all the while I think, how could anyone leave their pet in a car on a day like today?

The officer arrives on scene within minutes; however, the parking lot is full and the caller’s description of the car and its location were sketchy. Finally, our officer finds the car. Inside is a medium-sized shepherd mix pacing and panting heavily. There is no time to waste, but the officer needs proof that she has “just cause” to remove the dog. She takes the temperature of the inside of the vehicle with a small thermometer she holds through the partially open window. It reads 130 degrees. That’s all she needs. The windows are down far enough to unlock the car door and she removes the dog from the vehicle.

The dog is lethargic and has labored breathing. She offers it cool water and wraps its body with cool towels to attempt to lower its body temperature. Just then, the dog’s guardian arrives on the scene.

“What are you doing with my dog,” he asks? “You had no right to break into my car!”

The officer responds that his dog is suffering from heat stroke and is going to need immediate medical attention. Reluctantly, the man agrees to follow her to the closest veterinary hospital.

The officer calls ahead and alerts the clinic to the dog’s condition. The veterinary staff meets her out front and quickly gets the dog inside. Upon arrival, the dog starts to have a seizure. In this case, the veterinary staff was able to treat the dog but it sustained some residual brain damage and now has some physical challenges.

This happened last summer and sadly, cases like these happen every year in Marin. Many people don’t understand how dangerous it is. Dogs’ bodies cannot sweat like ours. Instead, they cool themselves by panting — yet, hot air (breath) in a confined area only makes the area hotter.

Dogs left in hot cars often appear to be OK yet they still sustain the effects of heat exhaustion. Brain damage can occur in as little as 10 minutes in a hot car. And cars quickly get hot, even on warm days, even with windows down and even in the shade.

As of January 2017, a law dubbed “Right to Rescue” protects citizens from civil liability for property damage to cars if they rescue an animal in distress. However, the law only applies if the following steps are followed:

• You must believe an animal’s safety is in immediate danger.

• You must determine the vehicle is locked or the animal can’t reasonably be removed.

• You must have a good faith belief that forcible entry is needed to save the animal from imminent danger or suffering.

• You must contact law enforcement, including animal services or 911 before removing the animal.

• You must remain with the animal in a safe location near the vehicle.

• You must use no more force necessary to enter the vehicle and remove the animal.

• You must immediately turn the animal over to a representative from law enforcement.

We know how much people love to take their pets with them when running errands and we know everyone believes they’ll “be back in two minutes” when they leave their dog in the car, but the fact is, it’s dangerous. If you love your best friend, leave it at home.

If you see an animal in a car on a warm day, get the vehicle description and license plate and call Marin Humane immediately at 415-883-4621. Your call could save the dog’s life.

Brigitte Sanchez is the customer service supervisor at Marin Humane.