Officers in South Yorkshire have reportedly received a lot of calls in relation to dogs in distress after being left in hot cars this week, during the heatwave which has seen temperatures climb as high as 29C.
A message from the force reads: “Alot of people think that it is OK to leave a dog in a car on a hot day as long as they are parked in the shade with the windows slightly down, but this is a very dangerous situation for the dog. Temperatures can go from 20 degrees to over 45 degrees in under an hour.
"Leaving a dog in a hot car causing unnecessary suffering is a criminal offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, this can lead to a maximum fine of £20,000 and up to six months imprisonment or both. Our advice is leave the dog at home in the cool with a plentiful supply of fresh water and shade."
What to do if you see a dog left in a hot car
Anyone who witnesses a dog left in a car on a hot day should dial 999 – the police can inform the RSPCA if animal welfare assistance is needed.
If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away or unable to attend, many people's instinct will be to break into the car to free the dog. If you decide to do this, the RSPCA says you must be aware that without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court.
Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why. Take pictures or videos of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident. 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.
Once removed, if the dog is displaying signs of heatstroke, follow RSPCA emergency first aid advice. This could mean the difference between life and death for the dog.
If the dog is not displaying signs of heatstroke, make sure you check to see if there is a pay and display ticket on show so you can establish how long it has been there. Make a note of the registration number in case you need it for future correspondence, and if you are in a shop or venue it may be worth asking someone to make an announcement for the owners to come back to the car.
If possible, get someone to stay with the dog to monitor their condition. If they begin to display signs of distress or heatstroke, be prepared to dial 999.
You can contact the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999, but it is always best to call the police in an emergency situation.
Symptoms of heatstroke
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Excessive drooling
- Increased temperature
- Reddened gums
- Rapid heart rate
- Cool your pet down
Call your vet immediately and follow advice on how to cool down your pet such as laying a damp towel over their body and applying cool (not cold) water to their paws and ear flaps. Move your pet away from any heat source and, if possible, open windows in your car to allow moving air to cool your pet slowly.
If a dog stops breathing have someone call an emergency vet while you give first aid:
- Check to see if the dog is conscious and has a heartbeat
- Open the dog’s airway by gently grasping his tongue and pulling it forward out of the month until it's flat
- Check their throat to see if there are any blockages
- Close the dog’s mouth and breath into it’s nose until you see it’s chest expand, continue once every five seconds - if the dog doesn't regain consciousness get them to a vet as soon as possible.
You should also call an emergency vet if the dog has no heartbeat.
While you wait:
- Feel and listen for a heartbeat
- Gently lay the dog on its side on a firm surface
- Place one hand under its chest for support and place the other over the heart (just behind the left front elbow)
- Press down on the dog’s heart 100-120 times per minute (press hard for larger animals and with less force for smaller ones)
- Alternate every 30 compressions with two rescue breaths
- Continue until you hear or feel a heartbeat or you have arrived at a vet.
The RSPCA has issued guidance on the best ways to look after dogs and other pets during the warm weather.
It says you must never leave animals in cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans on a warm day, even if it's just for a short while. When it's 22°C outside, temperatures can quickly rise to 47°C (117°F) in these environments which can be deadly.
You can also help your pets cool down by putting ice cubes in their water bowl or by providing damp towels for them to lie on.