What to do when you see a dog left in a hot car

It’s only June 2017 and already this summer the RSPCA has been called to 3 incidents in which dogs died from being trapped in a hot car.

Although many believe that it is okay to leave a dog locked in a car with windows slightly open and parked in shade, it is always a very risky and difficult situation for the dog.

When it is 22 C outside, within an hour the temperature can reach 47 C inside a vehicle.

Do not leave your dogs in a car or caravan, or in a conservatory or outbuilding, where temperatures can quickly rise, even when it doesn’t feel that warm outside.

If you see an animal that has been locked in a hot car for more than a couple of minutes, observe and take action.

You can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 for advice but, if a dog is in danger, dialing 999 should always be the first step.

If the animal is displaying any sign of heatstroke – such as panting heavily, drooling excessively, is lethargic or uncoordinated, or collapsed and vomiting – call 999 immediately.

How to help a dog trapped inside a hot car

When the situation becomes critical and police can’t attend, many people’s instinct is to break into the car to free the dog.
Before you do that please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and could lead to a court case.

In fact, make sure to tell the police about your intentions. Tell them why you’re planning to break into someone’s car, gather evidence such as videos and pictures of the car and the dog, take note of the number plate and contact details of the witnesses.

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).

Lack of awareness

People are often unaware of the danger they cause to animals by locking them in warm cars. Read this story of a man who accidentally led his 3 pitbulls to death whilst he went to the gym. He is now heartbroken. If only he knew of the risks earlier.

As a matter of fact, before you break the car window and the dog is not in critical condition, try to find the owner of the car first. If you’re in a retail car park, the owner is probably in the store.

You can ask for an announcement to be made. The same applies to all kinds events or gatherings where the organisers can attempt to find the owner through the microphone or guest list (make note of the number plate).

What to do when the dog is out of the car?

When you eventually get the dog out of the car, move the dog to a shaded/cool area and douse him/her with cool – not cold – water. Allow the dog to start to cool down slowly. Do not splash or serve them with freezing cold water to avoid shock. Cover their head and neck with cool, damp towels if available to reduce their body temperature.

If the dog has lost consciousness or displays signs of heatstroke, a CPR action might necessary. Call the vet immediately.  Some dogs are more vulnerable to heatstroke than others. This depends on the dogs age, the thickness and length of its fur, its breathing capability i.e face and nose shape.

Dogs die in hot cars Infographic - RSPCA