my boss leaves her dogs in her car — can I do something?

A reader writes:

I’m a PhD student and a TA for a tenured professor at a large university. My professor has two dogs, both elderly, that she insists cannot be left at home alone because of their medical issues and because “they would be bored,” so she brings them to school, but leaves them in the car out in the faculty parking lot. There’s no shade and though this part of the country doesn’t get blazing hot, it gets warm in cars with the windows up! It horrifies me to see pets locked in cars and it’s worse when those pets are elderly, and I am afraid it will just take one warmer than expected day and those dogs will die a horrific death.

In this state, there’s no law about leaving pets in cars. There is no way to confront her about this; she is very much the kind of person who takes no criticism or suggestions or anything from anyone about anything and I absolutely cannot afford to get on her bad side. Should I anonymously contact campus police if I see the dogs in her car? She has an assigned parking space and numbered faculty sticker, so they’d know it was her car. I know this has nothing to do with me or my work with this professor, but I don’t want these dogs to die.

Yes, please do contact campus police. Or your local humane society, who might also be able to do something, or might be able to advise you on more options.

Or consider talking to another professor who might be able to pressure her on this, since they presumably won’t have the same risks in speaking up that you might. Or, talk to her directly yourself and decide that you’re okay with the consequences to you, if there are any — and that’s an option I’d seriously consider, given that we’re talking about animals who can’t speak up for themselves.

For anyone who isn’t clear about why this is such a problem: Dogs can die in cars at temperatures lower than most people think. According to the ASPCA, on an 85 degree day, it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of a car to reach 102 degrees, even with the windows open an inch or two. And in 30 minutes, a car’s interior can reach 120 degrees. Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes, and heat is especially tough for dogs because they can only cool themselves by panting and by sweating through their paw pads.

Please write back and let us know the outcome.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

  1. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Call campus police, call the real police. Your community might not have a law about leaving animals in cars, but I’m sure they’ve got one about cruelty to animals – which leaving a dog in a car on a sunny day is.

    Also, they’d be bored at home, but aren’t bored in the car?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, the “bored at home” thing makes no sense if she’s going to leave them in a car. Unless it means “they’ll be bored at home and tear/chew things up, and I don’t know how to train them not to.” (Not that that’s in any way acceptable, but I don’t know what else it could mean.)

      1. fposte*

        That’s my guess–they’re not trained and she kept facing cleanup when she got home.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            I’d presume the car would be harder to clean up than the house, but I have cats.

          2. fposte*

            I think it’s easier to keep the car free of damageable items than the house. Determined dogs can destroy a car too, of course, but the dilettantes will just settle down in it and nap.

            But who knows what the actual logic here is, since it missed a really key point about this being a bad bad bad plan.

          3. OneoftheMichelles*

            My uncle’s Weimaraner ate the dashboard of his truck…(I guess it was still hungry after eating his couch).

          1. Another Emily*

            I don’t have a dog but my first thought was why on earth doesn’t she crate her dogs instead? Wouldn’t leaving a dog in a hot car count as animal cruelty?

    2. the OP*

      “Also, they’d be bored at home, but aren’t bored in the car?”

      That was my thought when I heard that was her rationale.

  2. KellyK*

    Animal control might be another option to call, in addition to the suggestions already made.

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly. But I would totally keep reporting this til it stops because those animals are in immediate danger.

      1. RLS*

        Animal control or the Humane Society would take care of it on the first call, for that exact reason.

  3. Andie*

    There are also doggie daycare centers in several states. Petsmarts have them now. It is not necessary to leave them in the car.

    1. some1*

      & there are probably plenty of responsible, dog-loving students at the college who could use extra pocket $ as a dog-sitter.

        1. kristinyc*

          Yeah, the college student route might be better. Doggy daycare is expensive! (I looked into it, and the one closest to my office is $30/day!)

          1. Meg*

            It’s like human daycare. I’m paying $180/wk for a 5-year-old (temporarily). Over 5 days a week, that’s $36/day for daycare. I didn’t expect doggy daycare to be any cheaper, actually.

          2. Your Mileage May Vary*

            Really? We pay $5 per day for our doggy daycare. It’s a farm with kennels and large fenced-in areas where they get to socialize and play.

            1. kristinyc*

              Yeah. But I work in Manhattan…

              Luckily, my dog is 12 years old and is just fine at home. He has potty pads and water, and he pretty much just sleeps all the time anyway (and gets walks right before I leave and right when I get home). He’s crate trained, but so perfectly crate trained that he refuses to pee if he’s in there, and since I’m usually gone a pretty big chunk of the day, I don’t crate him.

              1. College Career Counselor*

                Honestly, I would report this anonymously to campus police or the regular police (the local humane society is a good thought for additional advice, too). Haven’t made it all the way through the comments yet, but I would NOT enlist another professor (especially as the OP is a PhD candidate and TA for this professor) to assist in getting this person to change her ways. I can all but guarantee that the 2nd professor will tell the 1st one where this came from (not maliciously, mind you) and academic politics and relationships being what they are, the OP’s academic career will be significantly jeopardized. Anonymity is the way to go in this case.

                1. Elizabeth*

                  Totally agree. Academia is a weird place, and if you report it to another professor it will probably get back to this woman.

                  Absolutely report it to all authorities mentioned, but be cautious within your department. It’s hard enough to complete a Ph.D. without a professor against you.

                2. Melissa*

                  As a PhD student myself, I totally agree. Or Professor B will be talking to Professor C one day and menton what happened, who will tell a fourth professor…so on until its gets back to Professor A somehow. Not to mention that especially in small departments, if she’s already a woman who does not take criticism well, there may be no one willing to get on her bad side particularly if she’s tenured and/or holds administrative power. Academics ae surprisingly gossipy and cliquey. I’d contact animal control and/or public safety anonymously.

  4. Cat*

    Honestly, the other reason to report this both to the police and to someone else at the university, I think, is that this is pretty erratic and disconnected behavior, which might be a sign of cognitive problems in the rest of her life. She loves the dogs enough to bring them to work but doesn’t understand that they’ll not only be bored in the car, they’ll be in physical danger? And also can’t take criticism of any sort? It’s worrisome, I think.

    The New York Times had an interesting and worrisome article a couple of years ago about federal judges – who have life tenure even more secure than that of university professors – who developed cognitive problems and dementia. It can often go a long time before it’s caught because federal judges are not really in a position where anyone with the power to say something is regularly evaluating them. I suspect tenured university professors can end up in a similar situation.

    1. WM*

      This is a really valid observation – any dog lover knows that dogs need space. Being confined in a car all day is not the life a dog wants. Especially a hot car!

      1. fposte*

        Space isn’t the issue, though–dogs often fare better when left alone if they’re crate-trained and left in their crates, where they feel secure and comfortable. The problem is that this is genuinely dangerous.

    2. dejavu2*

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Her actions are completely illogical and irrational. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

  5. Michelle*

    Dogs do not get bored at home! We have an elderly dog too and she sleeps 95% of the time. Sure, she would rather sleep in your lap…but she’s content sleeping anywhere. Except outside in a car. Or outside anywhere. She would definitely die in this heat. Please let us know what happens!

    1. fposte*

      Dogs do indeed get bored–and very anxious–at home with some regularity. That’s why you get situations where the dog barks all day at home when no one’s there (check sometime to make sure that your own dog isn’t one of them–it can be quite a surprise!).

      Some dogs do take to it right away, and as Alison notes, you can train dogs to stay home happily. But it’s not a no-brainer that it’ll be fine.

      1. Meg*

        I completely agree with this! Just like with people, different dogs have different personalities. Some may be fine being left alone for awhile, but some get anxious. It’s not always fair to assume that all dogs react to situations the same way.

  6. AF*

    That is just horrible! Hell, give me the number of the campus police & your local Humane Society and I’ll call right now! So sad that someone with so much education can be so utterly stupid and cruel. I’m afraid to ask what academic discipline the OP and this prof are in? Please update us!

  7. Alicia*

    Oh please take one of the suggestions and get someone on it who can do it without repercussions to your educational pursuits. I have an elderly, handicapped cat who can be left for a work day with little (to no) difficulty – I don’t see how it would be any different with an elderly dog.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      I’m assuming the elderly dogs need to be let out to pee more often than younger dogs and the professor lives too far away to be able to run home and let them out.

      1. Jamie*

        Yep – the bathroom and perhaps the schedule for meds. For our eldest statesman he gets his meds before work and at dinner and due to differing schedules they are alone for 2-3 hours a day max.

        But he’s okay with that. If it changed where he couldn’t hold it for a couple of hours or his health was so precarious we were afraid for his safety we’d have other arrangements.

        And I second the college kid thing – or even younger since schools are getting out for summer – for some dogs. My daughter walks dogs in the neighborhood and she’s never solicited business. Just people see her walking ours all the time and have asked her …her problem is she hates taking money for something she enjoys so much. Working on that – sigh.

        But that is a good alternative to doggy day care if the dogs are okay on their own but you’d like them to have some company and exercise while you’re working.

        1. Esra*

          Huge Gail Vaz-Oxlade fan that I am, have you suggested she take x% of the money they pay and donate it to an animal-related charity?

          1. Jamie*

            I haven’t – because she’s been doing it for free – but that’s an excellent suggestion – thanks!

            She volunteers at a shelter and is in the process of picking a major – she wants to work in hands on animal care (but not as a vet) either in a zoo or sanctuary.

            Eventually she’d like to run her own no-kill shelter so she did listen to her old mom and take some accounting and business classes, too…because I won’t be here forever to reconcile the GL accounts.

            1. Esra*

              If she 50/50’d the money into savings for future shelter + donations to an existing shelter, it’d be wins all round.

            1. Esra*

              Yep, I love Seasons of Til Debt Do Us Part, Princess, and Money Moron are all available online. The Til Debt 5-minute follow-ups are addictive.

                1. Esra*

                  If it makes you feel any better, I can’t see Comedy Central clips up here. I have to just read descriptions of your late night hosts making fun of my awful, awful mayor.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Just people see her walking ours all the time and have asked her …her problem is she hates taking money for something she enjoys so much. Working on that – sigh.

          Just quote the Joker to her: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free!” :)

    2. the OP*

      I have an elderly, handicapped cat too, and she really just sleeps all day. On the bed (we have little steps for her), in a window (more steps)… she sort of has a little rotation of places she sleeps through the day.

  8. Meg*

    I agree with everyone on this comment thread – please call the police, and I’d suggest calling the real police, not the campus police, although that’s your prerogative. If you believe she’s not going to listen to criticism, I doubt she’ll listen to suggestions on doggie daycare or hiring a dog-sitter (not that those are bad ideas, but I have a feeling she’ll brush them off).

    And let us know what you end up doing!

    1. fposte*

      Agreed on the recommendations being unlikely to work. She’s not doing this because she doesn’t know about alternatives.

    2. twentymilehike*

      please call the police, and I’d suggest calling the real police, not the campus police

      I thought campus police were real police, just stationed on a campus, no? The ones at my university were, thought, I recognize this may not be true of all schools.

      1. fposte*

        I think it’s school by school; I’ve more often encountered campus = privately hired, though.

        1. Mike*

          All the colleges and universities around here seem to have sworn peace officiers. In the case of private universities like Standford their police department is made up of deputies from the county.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        My university had “security” and they tried to talk you out of reporting crimes to the city police because then the university had to disclose them. Wouldn’t want word of a wave of thefts getting around – might tarnish the university’s image…

        1. fposte*

          How long ago was this? My impression is the Clery Act doesn’t apply only to public police–that reports made to university security/police are required to be disclosed as well.

          1. T*

            The Cleary Act applies to all colleges, but for many colleges, there’s internal pressure to keep it quiet. In fact, many universities have “internal judicial panels” to deal with rape accusations, similar to dealing with students caught by their RAs with pot or underage drinking. It’s a huge problem in universities across campuses …

      3. Nancy Boyd*

        Might be a private vs. public thing? At the public university I attended, they were actual police officers; at the private university where I work, they are not.

        1. dejavu2*

          I attended a private college and a private university, and at both places the cops were an actual, chartered police force.

          1. fposte*

            I guess the other question is what we mean by “actual police.” My grad had an actual state-certified police force, but they were private, not public, so it could still be a separate issue from calling the cops in the situation ExceptiontotheRule talks about.

          2. De Minimis*

            Same here.

            Attended and otherwise been associated with a ton of schools in various locations over the years, at all of them the campus police have always been actual police.

            I did attend one smaller private school that had security, but they did not portray themselves as campus police.

        2. Meg*

          I attended a private college and we had real city police with a station on campus. They were [City] Police, not [College] Police.

        3. Laufey*

          The private college I went to also had real (city) police officers. Admittedly, it was a small school in the middle of nowhere, and the town’s population fell by 90% during the summer, so it was really only fair that we provided the police force for the town (the school also ran a fire department and an EMS.)

        4. TL*

          Just depends on the university. My private college went from a private campus security to a branch of the city’s police force (with actual guns, le gasp!) my senior year of college.

      4. SerfinUSA*

        I work at a state university with real actual police that get really cranky when called security. Always a hoot when misbehaving student realize they are getting real tickets.

      5. Meg*

        I think it differs. At my alma mater, campus police were totally separate from city police and actually had very little authority over the students (which obviously created issues). In Boston, where I live now, many of the colleges have campus police who have powers very similar or identical to the city police. I’m guessing colleges in bigger cities tend to follow that trend.

      6. Sniper*

        It depends on the state and what that particular state grants powers to campus police. In some states, campus police are nothing more than rent-a-cops whereas in other states they are full-fledged police with arrest powers.

      7. Melissa*

        Often if they are at a publics university they are real police officers, but at a private university they almost never are.

      8. Laura*

        Both the small, private college in New England and the Public University (in the South) I went to had private security. Don’t think I ever saw the real police on campus either place, though I do occasionally hear about crimes on the news (still live in city with University)

    3. Anony1234*

      In my university, the campus police had full rights of a “real” police force. It angers those universities to be just considered security or “rent-a-cop.”

    4. the OP*

      She’s not here today, apparently, so there’s no use calling unless the dogs are actually here. I’m here every day, though, so I’ll keep an eye out.

      Our campus police are “real police”, not just “security”. My undergrad institution definitely had “security”.

      1. fposte*

        They may also tell you to call back when the temp is higher–unless you get somebody who’s particularly invested in the topic, they’re not likely to intervene absent a present hazard.

    5. Melissa*

      Sometimes the local police, upon hearing that you’re on a university or college campus, will redirect you to the campus public safety. My undergrad area used to do that; my grad school’s does not. It just depends.

      Personally I would recommend Animal Control.

  9. AllisonD*

    Please contact campus police, local police, animal control, and the humand society. No need to confront her directly and risk the relationship – let the professionals handle it.

    I don’t understand how a seemingly intelligent person can be so stupid. One very hot summer day I saw a small dog logged in a car in a store parking lot. I asked customer service to call the police; as the woman picked up the phone to carry out my request, she shook her head and said it was the 3rd one that day. WTF???

    1. twentymilehike*

      One very hot summer day I saw a small dog logged in a car in a store parking lot. I asked customer service to call the police; as the woman picked up the phone to carry out my request, she shook her head and said it was the 3rd one that day. WTF???

      Yes, I worked in retail with a window facing the parking lot for years and sadly, this happens and even worse … I had once called the police because some lady left her BABIES in the car while she shopped. As I recall, the window was down about half way and someone could have very easily just taken her small children! I mean, even if there’s a giant window to the parking lot and you can see your car, it wouldn’t have been possible for her to run out of the store and catch the perp before he sped off.

      1. fposte*

        Even more likely is the same issue as the dogs–window open or not, cars get dangerously hot for young children very quickly. There are several such fatalities every year–last year there were 32 documented in the U.S.

      2. LMW*

        I was once waiting in the Target parking lot and a complete stranger walked up to me and asked me to watch her baby in the car while she ran in to make a return. I said yes, mostly because I was scared she’d ask someone else if I said no. So she left the baby in the car, with the windows down, with a complete stranger.

        1. Lynn*

          But really, what are the odds that a random stranger at Target is an opportunistic baby-snatcher?

          1. T*

            There was a 16 year old girl abducted from Target parking lot in broad day light near where I live a few years ago …. it can happen.

    2. the OP*

      ha, there are a lot of seemingly intelligent people with advanced degrees who don’t have what you might think of as “common sense”.

  10. Jamie*

    Thank you for caring about the dogs. I wish their human did – but I’m glad this matters enough to you, OP, to do something about it.

    One of my dogs is also elderly with medical issues (Cushing’s disease) and the thought of him stuck in a car for hours at a time…I just can’t bear it.

    1. Andrew*

      I had a dog with Cushing’s, another with diabetes. Elderly dogs need to be in safe, familiar surroundings, even if their human isn’t there all the time.

      I’d be in favor of breaking the car windows and letting the dogs out. Preferably with the local Action / Eyewitness News camera rolling.

      1. fposte*

        Sure, but there’s no reason that this car can’t be safe, familiar surroundings, and it sounds like it might be–I think if the dogs seemed distressed, the OP probably would have mentioned it. They’re not being mistreated merely by being put in a car.

  11. Anonymous*

    It is unfair and infuriating to let us know that this type of abuse is taking place and not give us any means to stop it.

    OP if you do not call the police, humane society and campus authorities on this person TODAY, you are as culpable as the dog’s owner.

    Shame on you for not acting right away. WTF does it have to do with it not being part of your job? I have called the police on dogs left in cars on the street and in shopping mall parking lots. It’s not about this having nothing to do with your job – if you see an animal or a person in danger, DO SOMETHING.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Now wait a minute. Nowhere in her letter does she say that it’s “not part of her job.” She’s asking what to do, and clearly wants to do something.

    2. Jamie*

      I have called for animals left in cars also, but shaming her for not acting sooner will only result in people being afraid to speak up unless they did so immediately. It is better that she’s doing it now than letting it go on and not everyone is aware of the danger when it’s not blazing hot outside.

      FWIW in a former job I had an issue where I was called in the middle of the night because one of the temps had been bringing her two small kids to sleep in her car while she was working overnights. It had been happening all week and they finally thought they should say something. It was better to say it late than never, but if not everyone understands that two toddlers left to sleep in a car in a factory parking lot in a lousy neighborhood is reason to raise an alarm it stands to reason that not everyone will spring to action when it’s an animal.

      We need to encourage those who do care enough to intervene and not shame them for not doing it fast enough.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Holy carp! Point well taken about the shaming. Good point. Some people who seem to function just fine in society have those sorts of amazing lapses of judgement and/or common sense. I mean, I know things can be tough and we don’t know everyone’s circumstances or level of desperation, but leaving your toddlers in a car to sleep at night …I just don’t even know…

        Also, FWIW, when my mother used to work the night shift, she knew that there were others on her shift who were leaving very young children alone at night. At least they were in their own home, but still when you think what could have happened, it’s terrifying.

        1. Marmite*

          The logic possibly went along the lines of having the children in the parking lot close by (where the mother could presumably check on the kids occasionally) is safer than home alone unsupervised all night. It’s not good logic, but people in desperate situations make desperate decisions.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        We need to encourage those who do care enough to intervene and not shame them for not doing it fast enough.


      3. Anonymous*

        “We need to encourage those who do care enough to intervene and not shame them for not doing it fast enough.”

        Actually, we need to stop assuming people are so fragile that they will crumple at any type of criticism and realize that many adults are actually able to say “You’re right, I had my head up my ass on this one” as opposed to shutting down and slinking away in shame because they were told they were not doing the right thing.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, but the other Anonymous’ post (unless it’s you) wasn’t simply critical, it was condemning and shaming, which I think is counterproductive in most situations and was actually off the mark here.

    3. Mike C.*

      Telling someone to “DO SOMETHING” is meaningless if you don’t know what SOMETHING is.

      1. Rana*

        Yes. Otherwise you run the risk of people doing things that make situations worse, not better. One shouldn’t ignore a dangerous situation, but sometimes the best course of action is not the obvious one (which is why, for example, we are reminded every flight to put on our own face mask first).

    4. dejavu2*

      The OP is concerned because it will soon be too hot for the dogs to safely stay in the car, but it is not currently too hot. OP needs to act quickly, but OP is obviously aware of that. Don’t freak out.

      1. LMW*

        Maybe we can hope that the professor won’t do it when it is too hot.
        I had a coworker who occasionally brought her ailing dog to work and left her in the car and would go out four or five times during the day to check on her. But the car was parked in the shade with the windows wide open and she had a really tight temperature range where she felt comfortable doing it. I honestly never felt like that dog was in any danger because my coworker was so focused on her well being. I thought it was weird, but not dangerous (and I have called the police on dogs in cars before).

        1. Chinook*

          “I honestly never felt like that dog was in any danger because my coworker was so focused on her well being. I thought it was weird, but not dangerous (and I have called the police on dogs in cars before).”

          Thank you for noting that there are circumstances when you can leave a dog in the car if done right and withawareness of the hazards. I have moved across the country 3 times and had to leave my dog and cat in the car while I went in to eat and go to the bathroom. When stopping for the night, I would always go to a motel first and settle them in before getting dinner, but while in transit that is not an option. No one was more paranoid than me about the health of my pets when I quickly ate while staring out the restaurant window at my pets happily barking/staring at everyone who walked by (the dog would bark fromt he seat but all you could see was the cat on the dashboard).

          1. Rana*

            Yeah, I’ve been there. I remember moving one horribly hot summer and running out the car every few minutes to put more ice in my cat’s cage while we were stopped for a (brief) lunch break. If I could have brought her into the restaurant, I would have.

    5. Becky*

      I think she mentioned it being not part of her job because this is generally a place people write to about work issues, not because she doesn’t think she should do it because it’s “not part of her job”. She is doing something about it, by asking how best to handle it. I’m sure she feels badly that it’s taken time, but when your entire livelihood depends on your relationship with this person (as it sounds like is the case for the OP), then it is understandable that it might not be as simple as a stranger in a parking lot.

    6. Marmite*

      I’ve never owned pets, never had them growing up, and don’t know very much about what is considered acceptable, or not, in dog care. I know people who keep their dogs in crates all day while they’re at work and I see dogs in cars frequently. Although I hope that in the OP’s situation I would realise the dogs in car was an issue, I would totally want to seek advice before calling the police on someone, particularly if that someone is my boss. I would want to confirm that this is indeed unacceptable, and who to report it to.

      1. Your Mileage May Vary*

        I couldn’t tell from your post but I want to clarify that crating a dog is a good thing if the dog has been trained for it. They like the closeness of the crate; it’s like a den to them. You can put food and water and toys in there and they are as happy as clams. Some dogs even like a cover over the crate so they feel extra secure. So crating is not at all in the same category as leaving your dog in a car.

        1. Jamie*

          I had never crated a dog until we adopted one (all of our dogs have been rescues) who had been crated previously. She was 6 months and I did not want to crate because it seemed cruel to me (I didn’t know anything about it – just used to free roaming house dogs) but she was so anxious when we got her we set it up and she instantly calmed down.

          Now she’s 5 and the most mellow dog on the planet – but it’s still up and she still uses it to retreat and just chill. She sometimes steals bones from the other two and we’ll find a little pile under her blanket in her crate and she has this head tilted look when she’s caught like, “how did those get in there?” Too cute.

          But I just bring it up because prior to this I had a definite misconception that crating a dog was cruel but done properly it’s just like giving them their own room. I was so wrong on this.

          1. Marmite*

            I didn’t necessarily think it was cruel, I hadn’t really thought about it at all to be honest. I was more meaning to illustrate the point that if you are a non-dog person knowing what is police-call worthy behaviour isn’t always obvious.

            It’s a little bit like knowing what’s acceptable in different cultures and what’s not, if you have limited/no contact with a culture you’ll sometimes be unclear on what’s okay and what’s not. Sort of relevant example; I once worked as a nanny in Scandinavia for a family that had two nannies and the other was American. She thought it was appalling that the family we worked for wanted the babies left outside unattended for nap time. But that’s the norm there and even encouraged by some doctors.

          2. Chinook*

            Speaking as someone who’s rescue dog freaks out whenever he is in a crate with the door closed, I recommend training the dog early on to see it as a safe place. It will make everyone calmer and, if you ever do have to ship them by ferry or airplane, they then won’t spend the entire 6 hours barking (when I picked him up at the other end, one of the passengers looked at her companion and said “I told you I heard a dog”).

            Ironically, the same dog will happily travel by car for 12 hours and then has to be pried out of the car to spend the night in the motel room. The cat is equally well travelled and is happy as long as he has kitty litter and a place to sleep.

        2. fposte*

          Right. A lot of them will nip into the crates of their own volition when the vacuum comes out, a thunderstorm starts, the cats bug them, etc.

        3. Marmite*

          I assumed from it’s common-ness that it’s acceptable, but I didn’t really know how/why it was different from leaving dog in car (other than obvious heat not safe for dog reasons).

          Which kind of goes to point that people with a complete lack of pet knowledge (e.g. me!) might want to ask for advice before calling the cops on someone for their pet keeping choices.

          1. fposte*

            I think this takes care of itself, though. If it’s a dangerous situation, the dog-owner’s ignorance isn’t something that needs to be dealt with gently and the cops are appropriate. If it’s not warm enough to be dangerous, the cops aren’t likely to intervene anyway.

          2. KellyK*

            Aside from the heat, the risk of theft. Probably less so for these particular dogs, since their age means they’re not likely to be targets for dog-fighting rings or puppy mills, but still a concern to be aware of.

            1. fposte*

              But that’s where it’s a personal call. Theft of dogs from cars isn’t very high in most places, and cops aren’t usually going to lecture somebody about the risk of that even if a passerby is worried about it.

            2. Chinook*

              I actually look at my dog as an extra theft deterrent as he will snap at anyone who puts their hand inside my vehicle (which he did the first time someone tried to pet him at the gas station). No stranger is getting inside my vehicle willingly.

              1. RLS*

                Same here…my dog isn’t super-protective, but he’s big and scary-looking. People cross the street sometimes :) When I lived in a “busy” part of town my last year in college, many people warned me not to walk around by myself…until they met my dog. I had no problem running errands with the house windows open or going on late night walks. He really wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he thought Mom was in danger (always wanted to play with other dogs but would growl at tall men in dark shirts).

    7. Melissa*

      Uh no, she wouldn’t be as culpable as the dog’s owner. Shaming isn’t necessary here as the OP clearly wants to help.

  12. Eric*

    I would probably break the windows of the car and remove the dogs, but I get kind of nuts when people do stupid and dangerous things to pets.

      1. fposte*

        If only because car windows can be really hard to break, and the cops are likely to be safer and more effective at it.

  13. Ellie H.*

    This is totally horrifying. It’s easy to say what you “would” do when it’s not you, but I find it hard to imagine that the best course of action wouldn’t be to speak up and suffer the consequences. But honestly, to me, this is so serious that it actually merits contacting the police before bothering to say anything to her, so I think that solves your problem anyway.
    I would also consider telling the department chair, if she’s not the chair.

  14. Ash*

    If nothing else, you can always gather information on a dog walker or pet sitter and leave it in her mail box/on her desk anonymously. If her dogs will be bored at home and she obviously cares about them, she can always employ the services of someone to come visit with them every day to make sure they’re alright.

  15. LisaLyn*

    Just reading this is making me sick to my stomach with worry. If you have local humane groups in your area, I would start with them. They are usually trained to deal with situations such as these. Please do it today.

  16. B*

    Yes, yes, yes you call animal control, aspca, campus police, shelters, etc. I am never about giving pets away but if this person thinks that is a reasonable expectation of care then these dogs should be taken away and given to someone who can care for them properly.

    If she is actually going to listen and look for ideas she can crate train them, leave them in a doggie play pen so they do not run around tearing things and if an accident happens it is is one area, get them a kong filled with a treat before she leaves so they are keeping their mind active, etc. There are a ton of things that can be done for these dogs but only if she will listen.

    1. Jamie*

      get them a kong filled with a treat

      If I, for whom the smell of wet peanut butter makes my top 3 in the worst list of smells, can do this anyone can. Washing the kong is someone else’s job though, as long as I have another human in the house.

      Little tip – if you fill with liverwurst and put it in the freezer it defrosts slowly as they eat. I’ve done it with hollow bones but not a kong – but I would imagine it would work the same.

      1. KellyK*

        Yep. Putting it in the freezer with peanut butter works too. There are also larger ones you can freeze with a mix of kibble and something that will freeze (liverwurst, peanut butter, wet dog food) and give the dog their normal meals that way.

      1. LisaLyn*

        They have them for cats, too! They are pet toys. Some of them have holes in them for treats and stuff so you can stuff it full of goodies and your pet can get some fun/exercise/whatever out of getting the treats out.

        1. Jamie*

          My cats hate them. They see the treat in there and then meow angrily totally offended that I dare imprison their dairy flavored Wiskas Temptations. (Those things are like Cheetos for cats.)

          Dogs love them so much when I saw they had them for kitties I was excited – big no on that. They were actively pissed at me.

          1. Heather*

            Haha yeah – I got one for our cats and they just kind of stared at it. I pushed it around so they’d see the treats fall out…they scarfed the treats and went right back to staring.

              1. Rana*

                That describes my cat perfectly. Figuring out how to manipulate the humans with cute meows and paw raises (neither of which she did when we adopted her)? Yes. Figuring out how to pull a door open with a paw? Nope.

                1. Windchime*

                  My old cat who died last year at 18 years of age was able to open the kitchen cupboards. So they definitely can learn to do lots of things if they want to; it’s just that cats have figured out easier ways to get what they want! Remember: Dogs have owners. Cats have “staff”.

            1. Anonymous*

              One of the smartest cats I’ve every seen (he could open doors with round door handles without any problems for one) had been one who had brain damage due to heat stroke, his head tilted to the side and he walked funny. (a relative ran a cat and dog “rescue” for a time, and this was one of the rescues. However most of the animals she rescued were ones that were unlikely to be adopted, usually because of age or physical problems, so most of them just stayed with her.)

          2. the gold digger*

            My cats don’t like any toy or device made specifically for cats. They would rather have a (small) corrugated box, a brown paper bag, or the plastic security ring from the milk jug.

            Their greatest pleasure, however, is finding a way to leave cat hair wherever they go.

            1. Chinook*

              I thought cats farted hair as they walk and, when you aren’t looking, open sealed containers to fart the hair into them.

            2. the OP*

              My younger cat loves the rings from milk jugs, as well as plastic Easter eggs (especially if the two halves don’t come all the way apart, and are connected by a little bit of plastic). She also likes bent-up pipe cleaners.

            3. Rana*

              I once read that cat hair is among the most electrostatic hair there is, which is why it is so good at floating and clinging to things. There are reasons why I am grateful that our cat is (a) black, and (b) short-haired.

              1. Lore*

                My cat is mostly black and short-haired and still sheds more hair in volume than any animal I’ve ever met.

            4. ThursdaysGeek*

              My cats like the little toy mice, but only the ones made with real fur. Now my stores are only carrying them made with fake fur, and the cats aren’t even slighly interested.

              1. Jamie*

                I stopped buying those when I realized the fur was real and same here – mine have zero interest in the fake furred mice.

                Love catnip and we have a planter of the grass from the pet store for them – they love that. But I’ve yet to meet an official cat toy that they like half as much as crumpled up piece of paper or a helium balloon with a long enough string for them to chase.

              2. Rana*

                Ping pong balls (or tinfoil balls) are good too.

                (My cat also prefers the real fur mice… but she did take to this one artificial mouse that made a realistic squeak when batted.)

                1. Rana*

                  My cat is defective! She is completely indifferent to the laser pointer.

                  Also: her latest obsession is having trickles of water poured for her out of a neti pot. Seriously. She sits in the bathtub for a lot of the day and chirps imperiously at us whenever we enter, in the hope of convincing us to dribble water for her to attack.

                2. Anonymous*

                  My cat’s favorite toy is hair elastics! He shoots them across the floor so he can chase them and pounce.

                3. CathVWXYNot?*

                  Avocado pits are apparently the best thing EVAH for my cats, probably because they roll in an unpredictable way. Any pit that I don’t immediately put into the compost bin after removing it ends up being hidden from me and then batted and chased around on our hard floors at 2 am.

  17. AF*

    Alison or anyone – if the OP reports it “anonymously,” would it make sense for the OP to mention something to an HR person or another professor or dept. chair at the university, just in case the professor does find out that he/she reported it and tries to retaliate? It is possible that, because the prof told him/her that she left the dogs in the car, and a report was made so soon afterwards, that the prof would suspect the OP made the report. I would think that this could be a preventative/heads up kind of measure. And I hope that the OP would be supported by HR and/or dept. heads/other faculty in this situation. That may be naive, but I would hope that would be some protection for him/her, just in case.

    1. the OP*

      She and I have never actually talked about the dogs being in the car, and it’s common knowledge in the department that she does this. So I don’t think she would suspect it was me.

    2. Anonymous*

      No because at most universities there is no mechanism for students to report faculty for anything, and no mechanism to stop retaliation.

      1. AF*

        Yeah that’s terrible. It’s not a good learning environment when you’re terrified that the crazy prof is going to ruin your career.

        1. Melissa*

          Probably one of the reasons at least 54% of doctoral students have experienced debilitating depression. Hooray for grad school!

    3. Melissa*

      Usually TAs are not protected or served by HR. if they are hired by the university, it’s usually as a contractor. At some places they may be part-time employees but not typically.

  18. Still another Lisa*

    This drives me utterly insane! Why, why, why, do people think it’s acceptable to leave pets, children and elderly people in cars all day while they work? Why? It almost always ends in tragedy, I feel like every time I turn on the news there is a story about this, there was just another one recently about a mother who left her 1 year old in a hot car all day while she was working, the little angel didn’t survive. It breaks my heart, OP please speak up about this.

  19. Kate*

    Good for you for seeking a solution to this horrific problem. Who knows how many people have seen this happening but not acted. Sending you lots of good thoughts as you deal with this sad and challenging situation.

  20. Sharon*

    I work in dog rescue/adoption and am one of those people that this kind of story makes me twitch and grind my teeth. This lady should not own pets. I agree with everybody who said to report her. Next time she does it report her again. Don’t stop until she gets the message or someone rescues the dogs from her.

    This also brings out my cruel streak. I have a fantasy that it would be fun to go get dog corpses from a kill shelter that looks like the lady’s dogs and do a presto-switcho on her, and then sit back and watch her reaction. Some lessons are best learned the hard way (although this is very cruel it’s not as horrible as if she learned the lesson because her real dogs died!)

  21. Anonymous*

    So I guess I’ll fess up – sometimes I leave my dog in the car. NOT on hot summer days, NOT all day long.

    I really only ever do under very specific circumstances – weather is 50-65 degrees, car is parked in shade, windows rolled halfway down. Generally, if I’m running an errand on the way home – like if I realize I forgot toilet paper, and have just picked a dog up from the groomer, I’ll leave him in the car for 15 min while I run into 7-11. On non-hot days, I don’t get annoyed when I see dogs snoozing in cars. On hot days (or freezing days) I’d definitely call the police though.

    1. fposte*

      I think dogs can be left in cars safely myself. I think the problem here is that this is a situation where the car has basically been treated as a day care and it can’t be assumed that that’s going to stop when it should. While I think it’s not great to leave the dogs in the car all the time (though “all the time” may not be the durations we’d think, given that professors don’t tend to do 8 hour stints in the campus office), it’s not what’s going on now but what’s likely to happen later that’s really the problem.

    2. Jamie*

      I don’t see that as the same thing at all. Cool day and minutes while you run in to a convenience store? Unless you live in Dog Napping USA that’s not going to get your canine-friendly human badge revoked.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I agree that it’s not the same, but how is leaving them in a car when the temperatures are reasonable any different than crating them during the day or night? They’ll crate the dogs during the day and let them out at lunch and when they get home, or they’ll crate them during the night. Lots of people do that and it seems to be considered acceptable. That seems cruel to me too and yet dog owners I know consider it normal. It seems like a car is less cruel than a crate, providing the temperatures are under control. What am I missing?

        1. KellyK*

          I think with leaving a dog in a car all day, there’s a pretty severe risk that the dog will get stolen, which isn’t present when the dog is in your house.

          Also, the caveat of “providing the temperatures are under control” is a lot harder to guarantee over multiple hours. An area that’s shaded in the morning may not be later in the day, and a day that starts out cool and rainy isn’t guaranteed to stay that way.

          The other thing is that a crate is a pretty controlled environment, and it’s really easy to make sure there’s nothing in it that your dog can destroy or hurt themselves on. Maybe I’m just a horrible packrat with a messy car, but I can think of at least a couple things in my car that would be harmful if the dog got into them–there’s a bottle of advil in the center console, for example.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Ok, but the crates I’ve seen allow the dog to turn around, and that is about it for movement. There is no place to relieve themselves, no place to stretch, nothing to see. If I were a dog, I’d just as soon be tied up and dumped in a closet. To me, cars seem like a bad place to stash your dogs: so do crates. I’m not asking why cars are a bad idea, I’m asking why crates are a good idea?

            Yeah, I know, that’s not what the question was about, but as a cat owner, I’ve always wondered about storing dogs in boxes when no-one is home. I’ve GOT to be missing something. Do dogs prefer being in a small enclosed space? Do dogs sleep even more than cats?

            1. Anonymous*

              Dogs are denning animals so many theorize that the reason so many dogs take to crates is they actually DO like small enclosed spaces – I can say thats 100% true with my dachshund, at least. If his crate door is closed, he will burrow into the unzipped luggage under my bed, and sleep in the closed suitcases.

              1. KS*

                But why does the den need to be locked? That’s my problem with this crate training business. It’s one thing to provide your dog with a safe cozy spot to nest in, it’s quite another to make it so he/she can’t get out of it for 8+ hours. I think the crating trend is feeding off of people’s need for ease and immediate gratification; locking your dog in a cage where he physically *can’t* engage in bad behavior is a lot easier than actually training him not to engage in said behavior. I get that some dogs like den-like spots, but dens in the wild don’t keep animals confined with no means of escape, so I don’t see how that pertains to crate training which does.

                1. fposte*

                  Well, they’re not always locked–as you note, it’s perfectly possible for dogs to be in their crate without being locked into them. Some are, of course, and some of it is for the reason you mention. However, I don’t think that’s as bad as you do as long is the dog is crate-trained and not over-confined and underexercised.

                  Training an animal or person not to do something they’ve started doing is actually pretty hard–that’s why behaviorists generally try to instill a new behavior rather than extinguish an old one. There are quite a few dogs around my town who would both be happier in a secure crate during the day and would be less of a neighborhood disruption (and probably cost their owners less in barking nuisance tickets, too). Dogs generally aren’t at their best alone–a house or apartment doesn’t inherently make them any happier than a crate as the thing that shuts them away.

                2. LMW*

                  I crate-trained my dog until she was about three (she was a rescue when I got her at 11 weeks). She liked her crate and was always happy to go in there. And it really let us focus on her training — when I wasn’t home, she was safe in her crate, and when I was home, I actively kept an eye one her to reinforce good behavior and correct bad behavior. She is by far the best behaved dog I’ve ever had and it was the easiest time potty training ever. She has free rein of the house now, and if I leave, say, a plate of food on the coffee table and leave the room for 20 minutes, she won’t touch it. Part of that is her laid back personality, but a big part of it was the crate training. I will always crate train my dogs from now on, and I’m a huge advocate for it when done properly (which includes making a comfortable, properly sized environment for your dog, giving the dog room and time to exercise, actively training the dog when you are home). I previously thought it was cruel too, but now I’m a convert.

            2. KellyK*

              Yeah, I know. It struck me as completely bizarre when I first got a dog too. (And I am in favor of giving dogs free roam of the house if it’s safe to do so. I’ve just had more dogs that would make a colossal mess and probably find a way to poison themselves than dogs who would sleep on the couch all day.)

              I think part of it is that you’re really supposed to get them a good amount of exercise beforehand—a nice walks as a minimum and probably a game of fetch or a run for a young active dog. Then, they end up napping most of the day.

              1. Jamie*

                Good point in that dogs are so individual – just like people. We’ve been lucky in that as long as we keep the trash in covered can ours don’t get into trouble – although one would remove the couch cushions because she preferred sleeping on the couch frame – but no damage…just weirdness.

                Ours our very Sheldon Coopery in that they each have their “spots” in the house and if one is sleeping in the others spot they will willingly abdicate when the owner shows up to take a nap. And if they don’t move fast enough there is the face…no snapping or growling…just the “you’re in my spot” face until it’s vacated.

                1. RLS*

                  Stuff like this makes my heart truly ache. I can’t suggest more than what the others have, or really comment on crating vs. not-crating…but I have a BIG working-breed dog and 10 minutes in the car could very well do a number on him (plus, he hates being in the car, so he’d be panting and hyperventilating and generally making himself ill already).

                  I’m just going to go cuddle with my beast one more time before bed today, and I’m glad these pups have a concerned citizen like you, OP, to make sure this does not continue.

        2. fposte*

          I don’t particularly disagree with you. There’s a difference, but I don’t think it’s a bright line: cars parked in a publicly accessible parking lot are more at risk for things happening to them that can hurt the inhabitants or end up hurting passersby, so I think pets are safer at home; for longer periods, pets shouldn’t go without access to water, but given that this is a professor we’re probably not talking an all-day thing anyway. To me, the risk here is that it may still happen when the temps rise above 70.

          1. KellyK*

            Oh, you’re right about access to water. I would hope the professor has a water bowl in the car for them.

        3. KellyK*

          Crating a dog *can* be cruel. Certainly there are people who keep their dogs crated for way too long and the dog is bored, lonely, and ready to jump out of their skin for lack of exercise. And there are dogs with separation anxiety who just can’t cope with being crated at all.

          But, overall, it’s something that should be considered from the dog’s perspective (at least as much as we can tell what the dog’s perspective is). Our foster dog goes into his crate voluntarily (though the sight of a kong with peanut butter in it helps). I come home and he’s sitting calmly in his crate, not pawing desperately to get out or whimpering or anything, so it seems to be no problem.

          It does help that we do doggie daycare 2-3 days a week, and my husband and I have slightly offset schedules so he’s not crated for a full 8 hours.

        4. Jamie*

          I agree that it’s not the same, but how is leaving them in a car when the temperatures are reasonable any different than crating them during the day or night?

          I can’t comment on the crate thing, because as I mentioned we use one but it’s like her little den and the door is never shut so she comes and goes as she pleases. It’s more like a fort than a crate and I’ve never used it for training.

          We even have a cat carrier with the door off for our eldest kitty who likes to have her own cubby with her pillow. But again – free to come and go.

          The difference is security for me – I just hate the thought of my babies being out and visible where someone could take them. (Not to mention what it would do to my car. I can’t be the only one who loves their dogs but still doesn’t want to sacrifice my leather seats to their paws or carpet to spilled kibble and water.)

          I’ll be honest, I would have issues with the crate training you’re talking about where they are locked in…however my husband who loves animals just as much as I do knows far more on the topic and he doesn’t think it’s cruel when done responsibly and that some dogs respond well to the security it provides. I don’t know how it works, but I would need to research the heck out of it before I did it myself.

          And for my dogs the car represents two things – family fun time or the vet…and so I think they would be really confused if I took them somewhere and parked and just left them there. Besides they are little hams and would demand the attention of every passerby.

          This whole thread is making me want to go home and see my pups… :)

      2. Omne*

        Wanna bet? I left my dog in the car while running in and dropping off a roll of film and by the time I got back, less than 3-4 minutes, there was a really snotty note on my windshield. It was about 68 degrees, 7:30pm, getting dark and also overcast. I swear they had to be waiting behind another car just looking for someone they could leave a note for.

    3. TychaBrahe*

      Back in the 1970s, my parents left *US* in the car alone under such conditions.

      1. Jessa*

        Yes they did and we now know that’s wrong. In the 70s I don’t remember them having full on seatbelt laws yet either. And we could and did ride in the bed of trucks. But in the 70s we were arguably less knowledgeable about this stuff. And also there was arguably at least the appearance that there was less chance the kid would be snatched (remember the BIGGEST child abduction scare, the one that really made parents take notice and change their behaviour was in 1981 when Adam Walsh died.)

        I mean it was in 1984 that the first major MUST wear seatbelt law came into effect (thank you Wikipedia.)

        Heck most states didn’t mandate HAVING seatbelts in a car til the middle of the 60s early 70s.

  22. ThursdaysGeek*

    I wonder if this is something the professor does all summer, or just in the spring? While this is a stupid thing to do when it is warm, it’s common during times that are cooler. Is the professor is paying attention to the temperatures? I think police where I live are allowed to break a car window to rescue a dog on a hot day, but won’t look twice on a cool day.

  23. the OP*

    Some further information:

    I am new to this university. This has apparently been going on for some number of years (she doesn’t do it every day), but the parking lot where she parks is not the lot where I usually go in/out of the building, so I didn’t know about it until I came in a different way one day. The fact that she does this is common knowledge for most of the students and (I would guess) all of the faculty, definitely all the faculty in our specialty. Right now it’s something like in the 50s-60s every day, so I’m not immediately concerned that something is going to happen to them right now, but it won’t stay this way very long. She and I have never talked about this issue, so I’m not worried about her thinking that I was the one who reported her. I actually found out about it from another student. (Something like, “OMG, someone has their dogs in their car!” “Didn’t you know, that’s Dr. X, she does it all the time.”)

    To “Anonymous”, who yelled at me about not doing something, if you want to yell at someone you can yell at the entire department who has known this has gone on forever. Don’t yell at me. I just now found out about it. I am a responsible pet owner.

    Our campus police are actual police.

    I can provide more information later, but I have to go to class. (She isn’t here yet, so I can’t do anything, but I’m checking the parking lot now and then.)

    1. LisaLyn*

      Thanks for the additional info. I think the yelling at you was out of line, FWIW. I figured others have known this was going on for far longer than you have.

      I am sort of on the fence about the campus police because I have had bad experiences with ours, but I would think the local humane people would be good at coming to speak with her and give her a little education. Good luck and thank you for taking action for the dogs!

    2. Penny*

      First of all, holy crap, where do you live that it’s in 50-60s every day?! Or did you write this letter in March? If it’s in May, I want to go to there.

      2nd, I don’t have much to add because you’ve gotten lots of good advice. Action should definitely be taken and shame on all those other people for doing nothing. And if one doesn’t work out, just try another avenue because someone will be willing to help. Contacting groups like Humane Society, PETA or ASPCA will probably give you some good advice because those people are passionate about protecting animals.

      Honestly though, I might advise just talking to her first, telling her the facts stated here about how much it endangers her dogs and giving her suggestions like daycare that others have given. Maybe she’s just clueless? Heck, she works at a college, don’t tell me she can’t find an affordable, trustworthy dog sitter!

      And please let us know what happens with this so we know those dogs are ok!

      1. Jamie*

        My son’s graduation last night was outside and it was barely 40 degrees and windy. It was ridiculous – no one listened to the speeches because we were all so busy trying not to succumb to hypothermia.

        So in the midwest it’s still mighty chilly some days.

      2. the OP*

        ha, I don’t want to say exactly where, so I can stay anon, but I came from somewhere MUCH hotter and I love the weather here.

        I am reluctant to speak directly to her about it. We don’t really get along that well, which is another story, and I put up with her rudeness to me so I can get finished with my program as quickly as possible and get out with a halfway decent recommendation from her. My TA-ship is well funded and I get to teach and assist with my dream classes, so I focus on that and try to generally ignore her whenever I can. While I can put up with rudeness to me, though, I can’t put up with abuse of animals.

        1. Melissa*

          FWIW I’m a PhD student too and I would not advocate taking to her directly. I have an excellent relationship with my advisor and I wouldn’t bring something like this up to him either,so I can only imagine this with a temperamental one.

    3. Anonicorn*

      I am truly, truly horrified that the faculty could potentially know about this and haven’t said anything. (And for years!?)

      In addition to this being ethically terribad, couldn’t this be a liability for the school?

      1. fposte*

        It’s unlikely, because the only person with cause to sue is the owner of the dogs.

      2. the OP*

        I was pretty horrified that no one seems to have reported it so far. Faculty, at least. Students seem to be pretty terrified of her and I’m sure that’s why they haven’t done or said anything.

    4. Anonymous*

      That’s me who yelled at you and if your whole department would write in, I’d yell at all of them. Not to worry though, everyone here is MUCH more concerned that I hurt your feelings and “shamed” you (oh the horror!) than about your inaction.

      Don’t worry, it’s not like the sun can heat up a car really quickly on a day in the 60s and cause it to become unbearably hot inside the car. Nothing to worry about here.

      And as long as other people knew before you, that absolves you of any failings on your part now that you know. If you’re not the first person to find out about something bad happening, your responsibility to do something about it is lessened. That’s definitely how things work.

      (Note: I have now used sarcasm in addition to “shaming”. I am clearly the worst person ever ).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re totally out of line. The OP wrote in asking what she can do and says she plans to do something. As others have pointed out, the temperature isn’t yet endangering these dogs so she has time to figure out what to do. And then plans to take action.

        By the way, do you eat meat? Wear leather? Buy animal-tested products? If do, your outrage here is particularly misplaced, given the horrific cruelty to animals involved in those activities.

        That doesn’t mean throw up your hands and do nothing. But it does mean it’s incredibly hypocritical to take the tone you have here.

      2. Rana*

        A request: could you please come up with a user name other than “Anonymous”? It doesn’t matter what it is, but so many people use “Anonymous” as a handle that it’s difficult to keep you all straight. (The other day I saw a discussion in which two “Anonymous” people were arguing with each other, which was terribly confusing.)

        If I’m going to (dis)agree with someone, I’d like to have a consistent label to use.

  24. sm*

    Many schools are part of through which you can make anonymous reports.

  25. Job seeker*

    As a dog lover please do something. I have three things I will go to bat for children, elderly and animals. Just this week, my husband and I visited 5 different groomers to find a new one for our little dogs. I feel toward them like I do my kids, I will make sure they have a safe and clean place to go.

    Our little bichon and golden retriever are part of this family. As a matter of fact right now those two little characters are fast asleep on the hard wood floors in the foyer. Please speak up for those that can’t.

  26. Anonymous*

    I have to wonder if the OP’s boss is only leaving her dogs in the car? I can easily see her brining them into work on the weekend. Where I work I’ve seen people bring small dogs into offices during the weekends, although there’s no official rule against it, there are labs in the same building using materials that dogs should not have contact with (chemicals and biohazards), and really people shouldn’t be brining their pets into my workplace.

  27. ITPuffNStuff*

    The situation sounds terrible, but if no law is being broken, I’m not sure how police could help.

    1. Anonymous*

      If it’s a private university, quite a lot actually, even if there are no laws against it. Of course the campus police/security have to be willing to do something, but they can totally tell this person they can’t leave her dogs in her car.

  28. Anonymous*

    This is true. But not entirely true.

    The ASPCA has widely publicized the worst-case “CAN happen” scenario. Which, as everyone knows who has ever actually sat in a car in the summer, is often quite different from the actual-case “WILL happen” scenario.

    As a practical matter the issue is dependent on ventilation (how many windows are open, and how much wind there is;) sun strength; outside temp; car interior (black fabric is worst;) car color (shiny white is best;) roof design (how much sun hits the inside) and so on. And of course, a dog which is bred to happily live in 85 degree tropical heat outside will not be harmed by 85 degree heat in a car.

    The ideal thing would simply be to look at the dogs, and/or take the temp of the inside of the car. It’s pretty simple and can tell you whether or not there’s a problem.

    But keep a grip on reality.

    When I was a ten year old, I spent many hours of time reading in the front seat while my parents were doing errands. In the summer.

    My kids do that now. And I can promise you that they are intelligent enough not to want to stay in the car (instead of walking to the park) if it were 120 degrees.

  29. Laura*

    I’ve had this happen to me-someone in our office was doing this in January and February, so it was the opposite of the situation you explained. I talked about it with my direct supervisor, but am unsure of where it went from there. Probably nowhere, as the employee in question didn’t confront me about it. But she stopped leaving her dog in the car anyways. I spoke up because we have a LOT of animal lovers in the office, particularly dog lovers, and I didn’t drama to unfold over it.

  30. JuliB*

    If there’s no real response after the action you choose (police, etc), I would suggest contacting a member of the campus paper. If it’s not illegal, it certainly is awful PR and I’m sure that the resulting uproar would get this addressed by someone higher up.

    You did mention that a lot of students know about it, but maybe not enough of the ones who would make a big deal about it? Or even a local paper could be contacted…

  31. Editor*

    Sorry I’m so late to this. I would encourage the TA to report this to various authorities anonymously. The problem is, it is hard to make an anonymous report. I would recommend a typed, anonymous letter listing the details without a lot of sentences and paragraphs that provide an identifiable prose style.

    Here’s why — police reports are public records. They can be examined and the name of the complainant may be listed. Campus police may also document things, and those reports may be accessible, particularly to a professor.

    An anonymous report to an animal cruelty official or the local shelter may be the best way to go. Too bad there aren’t many pay phones any more.

    Anonymous May 25 at 9:26 — Please stop being so judgmental. Animals deserve a decent life and decent treatment, but a public report and witch hunt by a TA could inspire this professor to end the TA’s career. The welfare of a human being is at stake here, too, and the TA’s life is more important than the lives of the dogs. This isn’t an easy ethical situation, and the TA is to be commended for wanting to do the right thing in the right way.

    I wish people who are passionate about animal welfare would remember that we’re in the midst of profound changes in the way we treat and regard animals in this country. This professor may be doing something her parents and grandparents did with their animals. The professor may or may not have a more utilitarian attitude toward the animals, but a lot of people still do think it is fine to leave dogs in vehicles, chain them to posts, dump them by the side of the road in the country when they don’t want them, and other practices that are beginning to be unacceptable or are unacceptable in some circles. I hope the goal is to retrain this dog owner, rather than arrest her. People don’t have to be trained before they have children and some parents still think spanking is necessary; similarly, dog owners whose families had dogs may not realize that there are things they need to learn.

    Advocates for dogs might want to encourage veterinarians to ask about the daily lives of the dogs who come in for routine visits so the veterinarians can provide some continuing education.

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