Dogs die in hot cars – make no mistake. Leaving a pet, even for just a few minutes, is a cruel thing, yet there are still many dog owners who aren’t fully aware of the rules or the consequences when it comes to leaving a dog in the car.
In the middle of one of the longest heatwaves on record, here’s what you need to know about the law around dogs in cars.
How long is it safe to leave a dog in a hot car?
There’s no safe period at all – simple as that. The UK’s biggest animal welfare charity, the RSPCA, regularly campaigns to get this message across.
“The RSPCA message is clear,” says the charity. “Not long is too long, and we urge anybody with a dog not to take the risk and to leave their pet at home.”
“Temperatures can rise quickly in cars, caravans and even conservatories – when it’s 22C outside within an hour the temperature can reach 47C inside a vehicle, which can result in death.”
What are the possible consequences?
Most dogs have a core body temperature of 39 degrees Celsius, and it can take a temperature increase of just two degrees to cause severe brain damage in a dog, while an increase in body temperature up to 42 degrees can result in death.
RSPCA manager Holly Barber, who runs the Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign, said: “There is absolutely no reason or excuse that warrants risking your pet’s life by leaving them in a car on their own in this heat.
“People don’t believe it will happen to them or they tell themselves they’ll only be a minute, but it simply isn’t good enough.”
What are the penalties for leaving a dog in a hot car?
Leaving a dog to die in a hot car could land you a prison sentence for animal cruelty, with the possibility of spending two years behind bars.
There’s also an unlimited fine – usually between £2,000 and £5,000 depending on the conditions in which the dogs are left.
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What should I do if I see a dog trapped in a hot car?
This depends on how distressed the dog appears. In the first instance, you should alert the police by calling 999. Try to establish from the call handler what the response time will be, and if necessary see if you can access the vehicle without causing any damage – try all the doors and boot lid.
If the dog appears to be in serious danger, is in deep distress or is floppy and limp, let the call handler know that you intend to break a window on the vehicle to allow the dog to get the air it needs.
If you’re in a public area, such as a shop car park, ask anyone if they know who the car belongs to, or if it’s a large store ask for an announcement to be made on the tannoy system to try and locate the owner.