What To Do If Your Car -- And Pet -- Are Towed

If you've ever left your pet in your car while running in somewhere to run a quick errand, beware, especially if you tend to leave your car in a no-parking zone. It's common for people to think that parking somewhere illegal for a few minutes won't make much of a difference, but many tow truck companies watch out for drivers like this. However, that means there's the risk that not only will your car be taken, but also your pet. Here's what you need to do if that happens.

  1. Find the towing company's phone number immediately. Do not wait until you arrange for a ride home. In a commercial center or apartment complex lot, there should be contact information on the signs notifying people about towing. If you see signs warning about towing but no contact information, ask the manager of the store or the complex if you're looking during business hours. Outside of those, call any emergency numbers listed (for example, if the apartment manager's voicemail gives out an after-hours emergency maintenance number).
  2. Contact local police if you can't find contact information and the manager doesn't have it or won't give it to you for whatever reason. Let the police know that your pet is in the car. While police might not know off-hand who tows from that lot, they can help you find out.
  3. Call the towing company and let them know from where your car was towed and that there is an animal in the car. It is not always obvious to tow truck operators if there's a pet inside; the pet could be sleeping or sick, or afraid and thus hiding. In the case of cats, the pets would likely be in a crate and not visible if the windows were tinted, for example. Note that tow truck companies, depending on their policies and city law, may not be able to open up a towed car on their own if the doors are locked, meaning they can't check for pets. That happened in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2013. An SUV was towed, but the doors were locked, and local procedures prevented the towing company from opening up the SUV when they took it. A month later, a scrawny puppy was found jumping onto the dashboard as the tow company got the car ready for auction (there had been so much trash in the car that the dog survived by eating food scraps in the trash).
  4. Arrange with the towing company to get your pet. This may mean grabbing a taxi ride over right then, or arranging for the company to contact animal control to care for the animal until you can reach the impound yard. Note that in some areas, such as Portland, Oregon, towing companies are required to call animal control authorities on the spot if they see animals in the car, so by the time you find out your car is gone, your pet may already be with animal control officers.
  5. Contact local animal control authorities if the towing company is uncooperative. Good towing companies will ensure your pet remains safe, but if you find out you're dealing with a not-so-good company, you need animal control officers to help you reach the pet.

Remember, pets are generally considered property, and tow truck operators are allowed to tow cars with animals inside. They must take care of the animals, either in the office or by calling an animal care agency, but leaving your animal in the car does not pre-empt towing. If you want more advice on how to ensure you park legally, or how to keep your pet safe in your car in the event of towing, contact towing companies in your area. For more information, visit http://www.cctow.com/