RSPCA warns about dogs in hot cars after 330 heat-related calls during lockdown

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24 June 2020
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Charity concerned about pet’s safety as lockdown eases during burst of hot weather which will see more people on days out, shopping trips and more

As lockdown eases and the heatwave continues, the RSPCA is warning against leaving dogs in hot cars, revealing 330 calls about the issue over the past three months.

Since lockdown began on 23 March, the charity has received 330 calls with concern about animals in hot weather, and with temperatures set to rise to more than 30 degrees in some areas this week, the RSPCA is braced for hundreds more calls about animals at risk in the heat.

The charity is sending a stark reminder to owners to never leave a dog in a hot car, vehicle, caravan, conservatory or outbuilding in the warm weather.

Dogs - and other pets - can overheat and die if left in a hot environment, such as a car as temperatures can rapidly rise in matter of minutes with lethal consequences for pets.

Each summer, the RSPCA is part of a coalition of organisations and charities to run the Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign, urging owners never to leave their pets in hot environments such as cars, caravans or conservatories and advising members of the public what to do if they spot a dog in a car on a warm day.

Dr Sam Gaines, dog welfare expert at the RSPCA said: “Our message is very clear, please do not put your pet at risk by leaving them in a vehicle on a warm day. Please leave them at home with access to a cool shady area and plenty of water.

“It’s a relief for many people that lockdown is set to ease and with most dogs being an important part of the family, it’s going to be tempting to want to take them on a day out by car, or a trip to the shops etc. But temperatures can rise very quickly inside a vehicle, but even the windows down and a bowl of water is not enough to keep a dog comfortable and cool. It’s never worth the risk.

“Sadly, we’ve seen a number of tragic cases over the years where dogs have died after being left inside a hot vehicle, and in most cases their owners were devastated and truly thought their dogs would be okay. It’s so important that people remember that ‘not long is too long’ when it comes to leaving your dog in the car, even if you only plan to be a few minutes.”

What to do if you see a dog in a car on a warm day

In an emergency, we may not be able to attend quickly enough, and with no powers of entry, we'd need police assistance at such an incident.

Don't be afraid to dial 999, the police will inform us if animal welfare assistance is required.

Help a dog in a hot car:

  • Establish the animal's health and condition. If they're displaying any signs of heatstroke dial 999 immediately.
  • If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away or unable to attend, many people's instinct will be to break into the car to free the dog. If you decide to do this, please be aware that without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court.
  • Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why. Take pictures or videos of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident. The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).
  • Once removed, if the dog is displaying signs of heatstroke, follow our emergency first aid advice. This could mean the difference between life and death for the dog.
  • The dog should be moved to a shaded/cool area and doused with cool water. The dog should be allowed to drink small amounts of cool water.

Sam added: “Even dogs at home need help keeping cool in hot weather, so here are our top tips for making sure our pets are comfortable during a heatwave.”

Keep your dogs healthy and happy this summer:

  • Get ready for the hot weather with our top tips to keep your dogs cool.
  • Have a go at making some frozen dog treats to keep your pooch cool.
  • Don’t let your pet get sunburnt - use pet-safe sun cream.
  • Ensure animals have constant access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times. Somewhere that was shaded in the morning could be in full sun by the afternoon.
  • Keep pesticides out of reach of animals.
  • Wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel, or use damp towels for your pet to lie on.
  • Use cold treats from the fridge for added moisture or make an ice lolly for your dog from pet-friendly ingredients.
  • Freeze your dog’s water bowl or kong, or add ice cubes to your pet’s bowl.
  • Fill a paddling pool or spray a hose for your dog to play in but always supervise them around water.
  • Exercising with a fur coat on is very hard so do not run or cycle with your dog in warm weather. Walking early morning or late evening avoids the heat of the day.

To help the RSPCA continue its vital work during these difficult times, please visit www.rspca.org.uk/covid