Confused.com press room

CAUGHT ON FILM – social experiment shows HUNDREDS of people ignoring distressed dog in hot car

Only four passers by attempted to help a dog left alone in a car in nearly 30 degree heat over three days of filming

Posted on 17 Aug 2017

  • Reactions caught on film show one member of the public attempting to break into the car as the fake dog whines and whimpers to be rescued.

  • Further research reveals three in four (76%) motorists didn’t intervene when witnessing a dog left in a car, while only a small number (2%) took the right course of action and called 999.

  • More than two fifths (42%) of motorists admit to leaving their dog in the car, with one in four (25%) doing so on a hot day.

  • Almost two thirds (63%) of drivers have witnessed a dog unattended in a car, with supermarket car parks being the most common location (73%).

  • Confused.com teams with RSPCA to advise the public on what to do when seeing dogs trapped in hot cars.

HUNDREDS of people ignored the distressed cries of a dog trapped in a hot car in a social experiment caught on film. The three-day experiment saw just four people stop and attempt to help the fake dog, which was abandoned in temperatures exceeding 28 degrees celsius.

Confused.com, the car savings site, conducted the experiment to investigate how members of the public would react to a dog left in a vehicle on a warm day. The aim of the experiment was to raise awareness of the actions people should take, rather than finding themselves in the position of a helpless bystander.

Armed with a fake dog – called Annie – a car and realistic sound-effects, a camera crew set up camp in car parks and busy streets across the UK. They recorded the reactions of passers by who assumed a real dog had been abandoned in the vehicle on a hot day. The camera crew waited, hidden from view, to see how people would react to the distressing barks and whining, and how many would intervene. Footage was collected over three days in July when outside temperatures were the hottest seen this year.

Throughout the entire time filming the social experiment, the overwhelming majority of passers by failed to intervene or do anything to help the dog; instead just glancing over and walking on by, or ignoring the loud cries of the dog altogether. Only four people out of hundreds stopped to take action, with one trying to open the car in an attempt to rescue the whimpering dog. Another tried pulling down on the slightly open window to get to the dog.

During the filming, the crew had to stop a passer-by who was moments away from calling the RSPCA out of concern for the trapped dog. The full video can be viewed here: https://www.confused.com/on-the-road/safety/dogs-in-hot-cars.

Further research by Confused.com supported the findings of the experiment revealing – of drivers who have witnessed a dog left in a car – three out of four (76%) did not intervene, with only a small number (2%) taking the right course of action. A further few (2%) decided to call the RSPCA, while almost one in 20 (4%) alerted the closest store to the parked car. Some (2%) took a slightly different approach and took matters in to their own hands by attempting to break in to the car.

Worryingly, despite media warnings about the soaring temperatures vehicles can rise to on hot days, a number of drivers admit abandoning their dogs in their vehicles. More than two fifths (42%) of drivers have left their dog unattended in a car – and shockingly, a quarter (25%) of these admit to doing so on a warm or hot day. While more than one in five of these (21%) claimed that it was ‘only for a short time’, a small number of people (2%) confessed it had been for a long time. The research also revealed some respondents have left their dog alone in a car for as long as four hours.

Despite very few people choosing to intervene in such circumstances, many drivers have seen dogs left alone in cars in very public spaces. In fact, almost three quarters (73%) revealed they have witnessed an unattended dog in a supermarket car park. Almost a fifth (18%) had seen a dog left alone on a high street, which often see a very high footfall of passers by. However, the most common (28%) time and place motorists have admitted to leaving their dog in the car is when they are refuelling or paying for petrol. One in five (20%) also confess to leaving their dog behind in the car while they go into a shop.

Even though very few motorists have done their bit to help a distressed dog left alone in the car, more than one in five (22%) think those who do so should be penalised with a fine or criminal offence. More than one in eight (13%) even go as far as saying they think they should have their dogs taken off them. Perhaps with stronger punishments or better guidance on what to do in these circumstances, fewer dogs will be left alone in the car and with their life and health at risk.

With this in mind, Confused.com aims to raise awareness of this important issue, as the RSPCA received 7,187 calls in 2016 about animals in hot environments which, although down from the previous year (8,779), is still worryingly high considering the charity's key advice is to call 999. Motorists, passengers and the public in general are being urged to be especially vigilant during the summer months and on the lookout for dogs that could have been left in a car on a warm day by careless owners.

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said: “As a dog owner, the results of the experiment really did come as a surprise: we expected far more people to try to intervene and help Annie the dog. The temperature inside a car, even in the shade, can be exceedingly high on a warm day. Poor Annie wouldn’t have stood a chance, judging by the amount of people who ignored her distressed whines.

“We urge all drivers to make themselves aware of the dangers of leaving dogs in cars on a hot day, and for them to be vigilant to what is happening around them in car parks, especially during the summer months. Spotting a dog alone in a hot car might just save the animal’s life.

“Aside from the risk to your pet, there’s also a risk that concerned passers by will cause damage to your car to gain access. If you claim for this damage from your insurer, it could ultimately affect your car insurance premiums.”

The RSPCA advises anyone who witnesses an unattended dog in a hot car to call 999 and report the incident. To help people be better prepared in the future, Confused.com has set up an advice page to educate people on what to do if they spot a distressed dog in a hot car.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Richards said: "This social experiment carried out by Confused.com has shed light on a very important issue and one that we’ve been raising awareness of through our Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign. 

"If you spot a dog shut in a car on a warm day that’s showing any signs of heatstroke, you should call 999 straight away. It doesn’t even need to be a sunny day for the temperature inside a car to reach dangerous levels for a dog. 

"Dogs are especially vulnerable to heatstroke because they cool off by panting and when their body temperature is raised to dangerous levels, even for a short time, they can suffer nerve, heart, liver and brain damage or even death.” 

ENDS

Confused.com commissioned research via OnePoll which took place between 27/06/2017-03/07/2017.

2,000 motorists were polled, 58% of whom were dog owners. 


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About Confused.com

Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first price comparison site for car insurance and is one of the UK’s biggest and most popular price comparison services, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the last couple of years to include small van insurance, motorcycle insurance, car buying and selling, and car finance, as well as a number of tools designed to save drivers money on motoring.

Confused.com is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased comparison service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more. Confused.com’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators.

Confused.com is owned by the Admiral Group plc. Admiral listed on the London Stock Exchange in September 2004. Confused.com is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

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