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16 Aug 2017
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

What to do if you see a dog in a hot car


Hundreds of dogs are being left alone in hot cars across the UK, but what are you supposed to do in this situation? 

hot dog in a car

More than 3 million (8%) UK drivers did not intervene when faced with a dog left alone in a hot car. But how would you react if you saw a dog locked in a car? And when is the best time to intervene?

We filmed a social experiment to find out just how many passers by would ignore a distressed canine abandoned in a busy car park. And only four out of hundreds of people stopped to help the whimpering dog.

 This is why is running a campaign to make people more aware of what to do if you see a dog in a hot car. With the help of the RSPCA, we’ve created a guide to inform drivers on the steps to take.

READ MORE: Safe driving: Animals on the road

What to do if you see a dog in a hot car 

1. The dog's not showing signs of overheating yet 

 Signs of heatstroke include: heavy panting, excessive drooling, lethargy, lack of coordination, or the dog is collapsed and vomiting.

If the dog isn't showing these signs, assess how long the dog has been in the car. You may be able to read the time stamp on the car’s parking ticket, for example. Then make a note of the registration.

If the car’s in a public car park, you should ask a member of staff to make an announcement over the PA, or ask them to monitor the dog’s condition. 

 2. The dog's showing signs of overheating 

 If the animal is showing signs of heatstroke, call 999 immediately, not the RSPCA.

The RSPCA, as a charity has no powers of entry, and would need police assistance with such an incident.

But the RSPCA has a 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999. This can be used to seek advice only

3. The dog's showing signs of heatstroke, but the police can't attend

 Many people’s instinct would be to break the glass, but this could be classed as criminal damage.

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

Remember to collect evidence, as if the owner can see their animal in distress, they may approve of your actions and you’ll have a stronger defence.

Take photos and videos, and gather witnesses. But most importantly, inform the police of your intentions. 

4. The dog's out of the car. What now?

 Take the dog to a shaded area and douse them with cool (not cold) water, providing a small amount for the animal to drink. If the water is too cold, it may cause shock.

Continue to douse the dog with water until their breathing starts to settle. Then take it to a vet as a matter of urgency. 

READ MORE: Keeping your dog safe in the car

hot dog in a car

Dogs die in hot cars 

Unfortunately, these incidents are still happening across the UK. In fact, The RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty hotline took 745 calls relating to animals and heat exposure during a hot weather spell in May 2017 (Saturday 20 – Monday 29 May).

Holly Barber, the RSPCA’s ‘dogs die in hot cars’ campaign manager comments:

“Unsurprisingly, we always see a spike in the number of reports to our hotline when there’s a heatwave. And also during the school holidays and bank holidays, when families are more likely to take their dogs out with them for the day, or take them away for a break.

“This isn’t a new message and it’s not a difficult one to explain. Dogs die in hot cars, so don’t leave them in a car. And if you do see one, please call the police – who’ll be able to attend more quickly than us, and who have powers of entry to the vehicle.”


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