Dogs Die in Hot Cars: What are the laws on leaving a dog in a hot car and what should I do if I see a dog in distress? 🐶

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It’s been a long-running campaign by animal charities to stop dog owners leaving dogs in their cars in summer – but still, every year, the police receive calls from concerned members of the public about overheating pups.

The Scottish SPCA, one of the country’s largest animal welfare charity, say they get around 1,000 reports of dogs in hot cars every year and have prosecuted irresponsible owners in the past.

The message is clear – even if you are just nipping to the shops for the few minutes it’s simply not worth taking the chance, as it only takes a dog a few minutes to overheat in a car.

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Temperatures can rise at an alarming rate in a car, particularly in direct sunlight, and keeping windows open doesn’t help as much as some believe.

An outside temperature of just 22C can easily equate to 44C in a car.

If a dog does overheat, it takes only a short time for them to develop heatstroke or have a cardiac arrest – both of which can kill.

Here are the laws surrounding dogs in cars.

Is it against the law to leave a dog in a hot car?

It is not illegal as such to leave a dog in a hot car, but owners are legally responsible for their pet's health and welfare.

If it can be shown that an owner’s actions posed a serious risk to their pet’s safety then the owner may be prosecuted.

What to do if you see a dog in a car on a warm day

Animal charity the RSPCA advises that you shoud assess the dog's condition and, if they're showing any signs of heatstroke, you should call 999 at once.

They explain: “If it's an emergency, we may not be able to get to you - and the dog - quickly enough. And as we have no powers of entry, we'd need to ask the police to help us rescue the dog. Don't worry - the police will soon let us know if the dog needs our help."

Can I break a window to help a dog?

Breaking a window should be the absolute last resort, as it could be classed as criminal damage.

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If you feel you have no other choice, the RSPCA recommend that you make sure to tell the police what you intend to do.

You should also take pictures and videos of the dog and take contact details of any witnesses.

What if the dog looks ok?

The RSPCA advise that if the dog doesn't seem in distress, you can leave them in the car but can still act to ensure the dog stays healthy.

If there’s a 'pay and display' parking ticket you can work out how long the dog is likely to have been in the car for – make a note of the registration so you can inform the police if you think the dog has been put in danger.

If you are at an event, or if there is an obvious venue or shop nearby, ask staff to make a tannoy announcement asking the person to return to their car.

You can also stay with the dog, or ask somebody else to, to monitor its condition.

What are the signs of heatstroke in dogs?

The symptoms of heatstroke in dogs are as follows: heavy panting, difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, lethargy, losss of coordination, collapsing and vomiting.

What should I do after the dog is rescued?

The RSPCA advise that you should immediately move the dog to a shaded place and pour cool (not cold) water over them – tap water is best.

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Try to get them to drink a little water, but don’t pour water on their head or mouth as they might inhale the water.

Continue to pour cool water over the dog until their breathing starts to settle, but not too much that they start shivering

You should not place wet towels over the dog as this can trap heat.

Once the dog is cool, take them to the nearest vet for further treatment.

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