What can you do if you see child or pet in distress in hot car?

SEATTLE -- On Tuesday afternoon, with temperatures in the low 80s, Amber De La Cruz saw a dog inside an SUV in a Safeway parking lot in Newcastle.

“I came around and see the windows are cracked maybe an inch on the driver and passenger side and see this dog jumping back and forth inside the car barking and barking,” De La Cruz said Wednesday.

She called 911, but said the dispatcher told her to go into the nearby stores and have them try to page the owner.

“I couldn’t believe it. She told me it wasn’t an emergency and they only had four officers and couldn’t respond,” said De La Cruz.

Law enforcement says if calling 911 fails, you can also try your local animal control. In King County, that number is 206-296-PETS.

On Tuesday alone, King County Animal Control said officers responded to nine reports of dogs left in hot cars -- a trend seen the past few days, with people posting pictures to social media in an attempt to shame the owners for putting their animals at risk.

“The heat has a really fast effect on pets that can’t get rid of heat the way we can and also young children,” said King County sheriff's Sgt. DB Gates, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office.

She said that if a child is old enough, you can ask them to unlock the door to get them ventilation.

Studies show if it’s 80 degrees outside, a car can jump to 120 degrees inside. In 90 degree weather, it will be 140 degrees inside a vehicle.

So what can you do if you see a pet or child in distress?

“Breaking a window out would be a last resort, of course," Gates said. "But if you see a pet or a child that’s in distress inside a vehicle, you have to do what you have to do."

Breaking a window to rescue a child trapped in a hot car is legal in the state of Tennessee -- but in Washington state, there is no such law on the books. In fact, in this state, it’s not considered a crime to leave a child in a car -- unless it’s running.