Ask a trooper: October 15, 2014


Pets Left in Vehicles
Question: Thank you for your informative columns in various Minnesota newspapers. I have clipped many of them out to prove to my younger, know it all brother, that he is wrong! Here is question I have not seen raised. Is it "legal" to leave your dog in a car (summertime) with a/c and car running but locked?  We occasionally will do this while grabbing a quick bite to eat or running a fast errand.
Asnswer: You are correct, this is a question I have not been asked in my articles. Minnesota State Statute  346.57 says, “A person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety. A peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department of a political subdivision may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation of subdivision 1. A person removing a dog or a cat under this subdivision shall use reasonable means to contact the owner of the dog or cat to arrange for its return home. If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the dog or cat to an animal shelter.”
This is a good question as it could be a bit of a gray area with the situation you describe. The law addresses the issue of the unattended pet in a “standing or parked motor vehicle” but also states “a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety.”  You mention that the dog is left in the running car with the air conditioning on and doors locked.  I see a few issues:
• How do we know the air conditioning is working?
• Where is owner of the vehicle and when are they coming back?
• What if the vehicle’s engine quits running, or runs out of fuel?
I would advise any pet owner to err on the side of caution and always look out for your pet’s well-being and safety.
A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205.  (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at,