Is it ever ok to leave your dog in a hot car?
Summer in the UK can see soaring temperatures, along with unpredictable spikes in temperature. Dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust, has warned that during the summer months, pet owners should avoid leaving animals in their cars, as even a matter of minutes can prove fatal.
It doesn’t matter on the breed of your dog, whether you are parked in the shade or if you’re just popping out for a few minutes, the RSPCA warns that dogs should never be left unattended in cars in warm weather.
The dangers of leaving pets in hot cars
On the hottest day of the year in 2018, the RSPCA received 167 calls to their emergency helpline regarding dogs trapped in cars. If the weather is 32°C outside, in ten minutes, this will climb to 42 °C in a car and within sixty minutes it will reach 56 °C. Unlike humans, dogs cannot take off their coats and can’t cool down in the same way we do. If a dog overheats, they are at a high risk of heat stroke which can be fatal.
Not just in heatwaves
Even when the weather seems mild, this can quickly lead to dangerous temperatures in vehicles. The best advice would be to leave your dog at home or have someone stay with them outside. Even at 21 °C, your car will heat up to 37°C within 20 minutes and within less than an hour, conditions can quickly become deadly.
Recognising the signs of overheating
If a dog is trapped in a hot car, even with the window open, they are in a potentially dangerous situation. Common signs of heatstroke in dogs include excessive panting, drooling, fatigue, confusion/dizziness and vomiting.
The best course of action at this stage is to call 999, seek veterinary assistance and get the dog out of the vehicle as quickly as possible, lay them in the shade and coax them to drink small amounts of water. Avoid dousing them in very cold water as this could cause shock, but if available, soak some towels in cool water and lay them gently on the dog to cool them down.
Should you break the window?
If a dog is trapped in a vehicle which is not your own, your first port of call should be to call the police as they are legally able to force access to the vehicle if an animal appears to be suffering under The Animal Welfare Act of 2006. However, there are exceptions. Under the 1971 Criminal Damage Act, citizens are legally excused to commit criminal damage if they believe the owner would consent to it if they were there.
If you do need to break into a vehicle, ensure to take photos and video footage, as well as getting the contact details of any witnesses and details of the car itself.
What if someone breaks into my car?
While if anyone that breaks into a car to help an animal in need would need a strong rationale; if your pet becomes ill or dies as a result of you leaving them in the car, you will have committed a crime. This could result in up to 6 months prison time and a fine of up to £20,000. If someone breaks into your car to rescue an animal in danger, it’s unlikely you will be able to claim on resulting damage on your car insurance, so these repairs would need to be paid for out of your own pocket.
What about pet insurance?
If your animal becomes ill due to being left in a hot vehicle and requires medical attention, in many circumstances this will be classed as gross negligence which means your providers will not pay out. Even though you did not deliberately intend to harm your pet, this does not excuse the action and the consequences.
Finance aside, the most important thing to consider is the health and comfort of your pet. The risk isn’t worth the convenience, so next time, remember to leave them at home.