Earlier this month, Delta, a 14-year-old yellow Lab, waited patiently for her owner to finish shopping at a Maryland Costco. It was 104 degrees outside, and, according to the Frederick News Post, the dog died of heart failure brought on by the stress of hyperthermia, or overheating.

The paper also stated that when a veterinarian took Delta's temperature, it was 110 degrees.

Last year, a New Orleans K-9 officer left his dog unattended in a police vehicle in late May. According to Nola.com, a division of the Times Picayune, the 6-year-old Belgian Malinois "died from shock likely associated with heat stroke, after ripping up the car's seats in a desperate attempt to get out," according to a report obtained by the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

Nola.com reported that the dog collapsed at a veterinarian's clinic with a temperature of 109.8 degrees.

The K-9 underwent emergency treatment, but died after suffering three seizures.

The website reported that the dog, a trained member of the New Orleans Police Department, "tore up both of the front seats of the SUV. The photos show the seats were reduced to chunks of yellow foam and fabric."

And in Grandville, Mich., last year, a 3-year-old Chihuahua named Lucky died after his owner left him in the car on a 78-degree day, according to the Grand Rapids Press.

The car's interior temperature was about 100 degrees, and the owner left the windows cracked about 1 inch, the paper reported.

These tragic deaths could have been prevented if the owners had left their dogs at home.

According to the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it only takes 10 minutes for the interior of your car to hit a deadly 102 degrees on an 85-degree day, even if the windows are open an inch or two. In 20 more minutes, the interior can reach 120 degrees. Even on a mild 70-degree day, the inside of the car can be as much as 20 degrees hotter. And it doesn't matter if you park in the shade; the car will still heat up.

Dogs, especially those who are young, elderly, overweight, or with thick coats, are at the highest risk for overheating, which, as the above examples show, has proven to be deadly.

Many states and local governments have laws that prohibit leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle under dangerous conditions, which include hot days.

Under these laws, police, animal control agents and others may be authorized to enter by whatever means necessary to remove the animal.

Under Connecticut State Statute, cruelty to animals can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. Penalties can include a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year. The statute also provides for additional sentencing provisions including counseling and participation in animal cruelty prevention and education programs as conditions of probation.

If you come across a dog left in a vehicle, even if it's wagging his/her tail and looks fine, even if the windows are cracked open, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Get the vehicle's license plate and description in case the owner drives away before police arrive.

Animals can't defend themselves, and it's up to us to advocate for their safety. Even if you feel as though it's none of your business, it's a moral responsibility, and you can prevent an animal from suffering a horrible death.

For more information, visit www.aspca.org