What should I do if I see a dog shut in a hot car?

18 July 2022, 22:37 | Updated: 18 July 2022, 22:41

Dogs should not be left in hot cars on warm days
Dogs should not be left in hot cars on warm days. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

We all know you shouldn't leave a dog in a car in hot weather - but what happens if you see one?

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Britain is experiencing a blistering heatwave, with temperatures peaking at 38.1C on Monday.

The exceptionally high temperatures are expected to continue on Tuesday, and even after that it will remain in the mid to high twenties.

Read more: Heatwave triggers travel chaos as Luton Airport runway melts and trains cancelled

Watch: Welder fears that extreme heatwave will kill his colleagues

While we all remind ourselves how to keep ourselves and our homes cool in hot weather, another reminder is being circulated by the RSPCA - dogs die in hot cars.

So what should you do if you see a dog shut in a car?

Why shouldn't I leave my dog in a car?

Your dog should never be left alone in a car on a warm day, according to the RSPCA.

The charity says a car can quickly become "as hot as an oven" even if the temperature outside doesn't feel that warm.

Even when it's 22C outside - 16 degrees cooler than it was on Monday - a car can reach 47C within in hour.

Such a temperature is extremely dangerous for dogs.

Many people think it's ok to leave a dog in a car if the car is in the shade, or if the windows are open - but it's not.

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

1. Assess the dogs condition

The first thing to do is check what state the dog appears to be in.

If you think the dog is showing signs of heatstroke you should call 999 immediately.

Signs of heatstroke in dogs include heavy panting or difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, collapsing, vomiting or lethargy.

Step one is to assess the dog's condition
Step one is to assess the dog's condition. Picture: Alamy

If the dog appears to be okay:

2. Judge how long the dog has been there

Look for indicators of how long the dog has been stuck in the car - for example, a pay and display ticket.

3. Note down the car's registration

This is so you can tell the police if you have concerns for the dog's welfare, even if the owner comes back.

Read more: Boy, 16, dies after going swimming in lake during heatwave

Read more: Heatwave UK: expert advice on getting to sleep, and how to keep safe in 40C heat

4. Contact the owner

Think about how you can contact the owner of the car. For example, if you're at a shop, venue or event, see if they can do an announcement over the loudspeaker.

Cars can quickly become extremely hot, even if the windows are open or the car is in the shade
Cars can quickly become extremely hot, even if the windows are open or the car is in the shade. Picture: Alamy

But if the dog appears to be in distress:

2. Take action

If the dog looks extremely unwell and the police aren't there yet, you may be tempted to break the window to free the animal.

However the RSPCA advises people to be extremely cautious when doing this. It could be classed as criminal damage and you might need to defend your actions in court, so you must be absolutely sure you are doing the right thing.

You should think very carefully before breaking into the car
You should think very carefully before breaking into the car. Picture: Alamy

The RSPCA says you can commit the damage if you believe the owner of the car would consent if they knew the dog was in danger - so, hard as it may be, try and put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would want.

If you're not sure, it's best to try the earlier steps.

3. Communicate with the police and take photos

If you judge the dog to be in serious danger and decide to break into the car, tell the police what you intend to do and why.

Take photos and videos of the dog to show the condition it is in. If there are any witnesses to the condition of the dog, take their names and contact details.

Once the dog is free:

Check the dog for signs of heatstroke or distress.

If the dog is showing symptoms, move it to a shaded area and pour cool - but not cold - water over the dog.

Watch: 'Up to 10,000 excess heatwave deaths' should be anticipated - Ex-Govt Chief Scientist

You can allow it to drink small amounts of cool water, too.

However you need to be very careful - read the RSPCA's full advice for treating heatstroke in dogs.

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