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What Should I Do if I See A Dog in A Hot Car?

16 April 2015

ANALYSIS - When it’s 22°C/72°F outside, the temperature inside a car can reach 47°C/117°F within 60 minutes.

Dogs pant to keep cool. In hot stuffy cars dogs can’t cool down - leaving a window open or a sunshield on windscreens will not keep your car cool enough.

A stand-out story of last summer was one hot July day when police were forced to smash their way into a car in Finsbury Park, London, after spotting a dog cowering on the pedals, desperately trying to cool down.

Sadly, this story is all too familiar, with a handful of these cases making the press every summer. So why do people continue to take the risk?

The AA has disclosed that the number of potentially fatal incidents involving dogs trapped in cars has risen by over 50 per cent in the last six years.

What does the law say?

In the UK it might not be illegal to leave your dog in a car, but it is illegal to mistreat or abuse an animal in your care, which leaves quite a grey area.

Leaving your dog in a hot car is deemed animal neglect under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and you may face a fine.

Currently in the UK, if a dog suffers or dies as a result of being left in a hot car, their owner can be prosecuted for neglect or cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Successful prosecution for neglect or cruelty can lead to jail time, fines and being banned from keeping animals in the future.

Can I lawfully smash a window to save a dog's life?

Noticing a dog trapped in a car on a warm day can also be very stressful for passers-by as it places them in an impossible situation.

According to VioVet, the law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if:

'at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence you believed that the person or persons whom you believe to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question would so consent to it if s/he had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances' (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).

In plain English this means:

  • Yes, you can if it means saving the life of a dog.
  • No, you can't if the dog is not in immediate danger.

Never assume

Research by the Dogs Trust shows that despite being a nation of dog lovers, more than one in four UK dog owners admitted to leaving their dogs unattended in cars.

Astonishingly almost half of us (48 per cent) believe it is ok to leave a dog in a car if counter-measures are taken, such as parking under a tree or leaving a window open.

Unfortunately, this is a myth - in reality partially lowering the window has no significant effect on the temperature inside a parked car.

labrador in car
Even if the weather outside is mild, cars can accumulate heat in a matter of minutes.
Copyright: Blinka

Warm weather tips

  • Your dog must always be able to move into a cooler, ventilated environment.
  • Never leave dogs alone in cars, glass conservatories or caravans even if it’s cloudy.
  • If you do leave dogs outside, you must provide a cool shady spot where they can escape from the sun.
  • Always provide good supplies of drinking water, in a weighted bowl that can’t be knocked over. Carry water with you on hot days.
  • Groom dogs regularly to get rid of excess hair. Give long-coated breeds a haircut at the start of summer.
  • Never allow dogs to exercise excessively in hot weather.
  • Dogs can get sunburned – particularly those with light-coloured noses/fur on their ears. Ask your vet for advice on pet-safe sunscreen.

If you see a dog in a car on a warm day, call the Police on 999. If the police are unable to attend, please call the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line 0300 1234 999.

Gemma Hyland, Editor

Gemma Hyland, Editor

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