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Pet experts advise what to do if dog is stuck in sweltering ‘oven-like’ car

5 min read

As responsible owners, our dog’s welfare is always at the forefront of our minds, and we know never to leave them in a car on a hot day.

Never! Not even for a few minutes, TeamDogs says.

But sadly, some owners take the risk, which could be potentially fatal for their poor dogs. And with the weather hotting up and summer on its way, getting this message across is vital.

It’s only natural that we’d want to get out and about to enjoy the sunshine, especially as we’ve spent so much of the last year inside, but we need to consider how this affects our dogs.

And while we can do all we can to protect our own four-legged friends, as huge animal lovers, seeing dogs left in cars can be extremely distressing. And it’s only right that we’d want to act.

So, what should we do if we see a dog left in a car on a hot day? Are we legally allowed to break them out?

The facts: Within 10 minutes a car temperature can increase by 10°C

The inside of cars can heat up at an alarming rate, even if you only leave the car for a short amount of time:

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Nationwide Vehicle Contracts had some pretty startling facts about just how hot they can really get.
10 minutes can see a 10°C increase in temperature.
20 minutes can see a 16°C increase in temperature.
30 minutes can see a 19°C increase in temperature
One hour can see a 23°C increase in temperature
Over one hour can see a 24 to 29°C increase in temperature.
Even cracking open the window slightly is not enough to keep your dog cool.

Peggie Temple, pet expert at My Pet Needs That, said: “Leaving a window cracked open does not serve as the antidote to keeping your pet cool.”

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“Cars are metal so when left in heat, they can replicate the heat of an oven. A window that is left open just slightly is never going to provide enough ventilation for a beloved pet.

“I am always a little confused by this idea anyway as if a human was kept stationary in a car, they would deem it essential to open a window fully rather than by just a few inches in order to stay cool – the same logic should be applied to pets.”

Am I allowed to break into the car?

How you tackle this situation will depend on the state of the dog.

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If they seem fine but you are still concerned, report it to the RSPCA. If you suspect the dog is in danger, you may be tempted to break in, but this is a bit of a grey area. One that could potentially get you in a lot of trouble. But not acting could also prove fatal for the dog.

The first thing you should do is check to see if the car is open, and if in a shop car park, try to locate the owner by asking staff to put out a tannoy message.

“Smashing a car window is essentially criminal damage”, says Peggie.

“However, if you have broken the window in order to rescue an animal in distress you do in fact have a lawful reason that will stand up in court.

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“A good thought process to adopt in what is sure to be a difficult situation is, if I was the dog owner would I be fine with a broken window if I was met with this situation? If the answer is yes, then you can use this rationale as defence within a court of law.”

The RSPCA advises that In an emergency (if an animal is displaying any sign of heatstroke such as panting heavily, drooling excessively, is lethargic, collapsed or vomiting) dial 999 and report a dog in a hot car to police.

But it also warns the public to exercise caution and be aware of the possible repercussions.

It suggests telling the police of your intentions and taking photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses.

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The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property would consent if they knew the circumstances.

A spokesperson for Suffolk Constabulary commented: “We do not advise that members of the public take action themselves, but if they have concerns for the welfare of a dog (or other animal) left in a car on a hot day, then they should contact the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line for advice on 0300 1234 999 in the first instance.

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“However, if they believe the animal is in immediate danger and the RSPCA cannot respond quickly enough, then contact police on 101 or 999.”

How can I help the dog if it has heatstroke?

The RSPCA advises: “Once removed from the car, move the dog to a shaded/cool area and pour small amounts of cool water over their body.

“Don’t use cold water as this could put them into shock. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water and take him to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency.

“If the dog isn’t displaying signs of heatstroke, establish how long the dog has been in the car and make a note of the registration.

“Ask a member of staff to make an announcement of the situation over the tannoy, if possible, and get someone to stay with the dog to monitor its condition.”

If you’re concerned about a dog left in a car, call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.

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