Should dogs left in a hot car be taken from their owner?

dogs in hot car photoOutraged New Yorkers freed seven dogs who’d been left in a sweltering car on Monday; when the dogs’ owner returned, she was issued a summons for animal cruelty and the dogs were taken to Animal Care & Control of NYC.

(WABC7 Eyewitness News has the full story, as well as video of the brawl that nearly erupted when the woman returned to her car to find angry neighbors walking and watering her dogs.)

It was unbearably hot on Monday, and it’s quite likely the dogs would have died in the car had the neighbors not intervened. But I am not sure the ending to this story is entirely happy. 

The AC&C, where the seized dogs were taken, is, like most municipal shelters, crowded and overwhelmed. A seven-dog seizure is a big deal, and the dogs will be held there until the legal case is taken care of.

While the staff at the AC&C is incredibly dedicated and will give the dogs the highest level of care, chances are, the dogs are terrified and confused. (Even the most abused and neglected dogs in shelters pine for their owners — that’s how deeply dogs bond to their people.) Also, it’s quite possible that having seven fewer cages will mean that seven other dogs have less time to find their forever homes.

I wonder if the whole incident could have ended as a learning experience for the dogs’ owner, with the neighbors who’d saved the dogs teaching her about hot-weather safety. But when I put myself in their shoes, would I have returned the dogs to her (especially if she was belligerent)? Hard to say (and probably not).

I’m not saying I have an answer. But I do know that seizing a dog from a neglectful owner does not guarantee a happy ending. It’s always better to educate an owner — although some people, sad to say, will never learn.

What do you think?