Hot cars are fatal for dogs. In some countries it is illegal to leave a dog in a parked car. Here's what to know about hot cars and our fur friends, and what to do if you see a dog in a hot car.
Before we begin, it's vital to know that it doesn't have to be hot outside for temperatures to soar inside a car - and very quickly too!
Heatstroke is a very serious risk for pets. The British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals cites that an outside temperature of 22 degrees can cause a car to heat to 47 degrees within an hour. Needless the say, this becomes far more extreme with hotter external temperatures.
There is also evidence that cracking the windows has very little effect on the temperature inside the car.
What to do if you see a dog in a hot car
These guidelines are based on advice issued by animal welfare organisations RSPCA (England & Wales), the Humane Society (USA) and PETA.
Step 1: Check for heatstroke
Is the dog displaying signs of heatstroke? These include:
- Panting heavily
- Drooling excessively
- Drowsiness or collapsing
If you don’t see signs of heatstroke
Note the make, model and registration of the car, and send someone else into nearby buildings and ask staff to make an announcement - someone should always stay with the dog, even if they are locked inside the car. The car owner should come and remove the dog immediately.
Do not leave the dog alone until the situation is resolved in case their state quickly deteriorates and action is needed. If you cannot locate the owner and the situation is urgent, follow steps two and three below.
If you do see signs of heatstroke
In this case, an urgent response is needed. Following the steps below, but remember - always think through your actions first and if necessary, find out the laws of your country - breaking into a vehicle could put you in trouble with the law!
Step 2: Contacting the police
If a dog is in distress, do not wait to try and locate the owner. You also need to call for help.
In the UK, you can call emergency services on 999. The RSPCA states that this is the best option as the organisation does not have the authority to break into cars and so police assistance may be necessary anyway, delaying the rescue.
In America, the Humane Society recommends calling the non emergency number of the local police or animal control. It's worth checking your country's guidelines before making a call, if you have the time.
Step 3: Getting the dog to safety
Ideally, the police will arrive on the scene quickly to help. You should stay with the dog while they are on their way.
If the situation takes a turn for the worse, and you have contacted the police but they are too far away to help, you may instinctively want to break into the car to save the dog.
The law on this varies in different countries. In the UK, should you decide to do this you may need to defend your actions in court.
Although this counts as criminal damage, the law states that criminal damage may be allowed if you believe that the owner would have consented to the damage had they known about the circumstances involved (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971). This does not mean that you will definitely be acquitted.
Always tell the police what you are doing and why, take photos and/or video of the dog, and details of witnesses who can help defend you.
Some states in America allow citizens to break into cars to save animals in this way, but others don’t.
Step 4: Cooling the dog down
Once the dog is rescued, they will need to be cooled down quickly. The following steps will help guide you.
- Quickly move the dog to a shaded area
- Gently splash the dog with tap water (not ice cold) to bring their temperature down gradually (wet towels can be very useful for this)
- Provide small, regular sips of water for the dog to drink but avoid them gulping down too quickly
- Call a vet immediately
- Stay with the dog until help arrives or you can get the dog to a vet for further treatment
And remember - NEVER leave a dog, or any other animal, alone in a parked car!
Have you ever seen a dog in a hot car? What did you do? Tell us in the comments!