Dogs in Hot Cars: The SHOCKING Facts and What to Do if You Find a Dog in Hot Car

By 16th July 2016Health
dogs die in hot cars

We claim to be a nation of animal lovers.

Yet, despite this, every year countless people leave dogs in hot cars.

Many of us seem happy to abandon our pooches, leaving them in our cars while we go about our daily business.

Even in mild temperatures, your car can become an oven, killing your four-legged friend at frightening speed. In situations like this, no amount of pet insurance or aftercare will help.

There have been several hard-hitting campaigns published by various charities but still, thousands of us put our dogs at risk every year.

The SHOCKING Facts About UK Dog Owners

More than One in Ten

People know of a dog that has come to harm after being locked in a parked car in hot weather.

Almost Half (48%)

Mistakenly believe it is ok to leave a dog in a car if counter-measures are taken (window open or parked in shade).

28% of Us Brits

Are far more likely to leave their dog in a car alone for a few minutes than their phone (10%).

Over a Quarter

Of UK dog owners admit to leaving their dog alone in parked cars.

More than 1,000

Call outs to the AA last year concerning pets locked in parked cars.

50% Rise

In AA call outs to dogs locked in parked cars over the past 6 years.

(Statistics provided by The Dog’s Trust)

How Long Does it Take For the Inside of a Car to Get Hot?

Some studies show that it takes around 30 minutes for your car to reach 40 degrees Celsius – a temperature that can be fatal for your dog.

Other experts claim that it can take as little as 6 minutes.

The fact is, it depends very much on the outside temperature.

So as an experiment, we decided to lock Ben in our van to see how it felt. What happened was shocking:

What Happens to a Dog When Left Inside a Hot Car?

Unlike us humans, dogs can’t sweat. They use their respiratory (breathing) system to regulate their core body temperature through panting.

Dogs with longer noses like Greyhounds, Labradors, and German Shepherds are more efficient at dissipated heat through their long nasal passages.

Flat-faced breeds like pugs and bulldogs are at more risk of overheating because of their short nasal passages.

When the ambient temperature rises, your dogs cooling mechanisms kick in and he will pant, using his respiratory system to cool down. Once the ambient temperature reaches his core body temperature, this panting becomes less efficient, making it difficult for him to regulate is body temperature.

A dog’s core temperature is between 38 – 39 degrees celsius. Heatstroke sets it at between 41 – 42 degrees.

When heat stress starts to set in, your dogs heart rate increases in an attempt to push more blood to the surface so it can dissipate and cool him down.

However, when these blood vessels dilate, your dog’s blood pressure drops which in turn, decreases the amount of blood being pushed through his circulatory system. This causes a further rise in core body temperature.

At 41 – 43 degrees your dog can suffer from multi-organ failure as a result of decreased blood flow and lack of oxygen to the body’s internal tissues.

Here is a breakdown of what happens;

dogs die in hot cars

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Some Dogs Are More at Risk than Others

Dogs in Car Laws

Short Nosed Breeds

Like Bulldogs, Pugs and Boxers.

These types of dogs have a hard time breathing in normal conditions due to the way we have bred them. In the extreme heat of a locked car, they could suffocate.

dog left in car who do I call

Dark Haired Breeds

Like Black and Chocolate Labradors.

It’s commonly known that dark colours absorb heat which is why your steering wheel can sometimes burn your hands when your car has been left in the sun. A dog’s dark coat will absorb heat in the same way.

can you leave a dog in a car

Long Haired Breeds

Like Sheep Dogs, Retrievers and Collies

Long haired and ‘double coated’ breeds trap warm air in their coats to keep them warm in cooler conditions. Trapping them in a hot car will speed up the process of over heating.

dog left in car

Older Dogs

And dogs with illnesses.

Many older dogs develop health issues – it’s part of the aging process. In many cases, their weaker bodies simply can’t take the stress that overheating can cause.

What Should I Do if I See a Dog Locked in a Hot Car?

Being the person who finds a dog locked in a hot car is a really difficult situation to find yourself in.

Trust us, we’ve been there!

You can read our full Facebook thread about it here.

So what should you do if you end up there?

Firstly, our advice would be to proceed ONLY if you feel you are equipped with the confidence to deal with the situation. Many people who leave their dogs in cars will come back angry when they see you interfering.

If you don’t have the confidence or the emotional stability to deal with the situation, ask someone to help.

Here’s what to do…

If You Can’t Find the Owner, Call the RSPCA

f you see a dog struggling in a hot car, call the RSPCA’s Cruelty Line on 0300 1234 999.

Click to Call the RSPCA

If you live in Scotland, call the SSPCA on 03000 999 999.

Click to Call the SSPCA

Give them the vehicles registration number, the cars’ colour, make and model and tell them where it is. Then let them know about the condition of the dog. Your local dog warden might also be able to help.

When you have provided them with this information they should send an officer to come and deal with the situation. If they need to break into the car, they will call the police.

If You Think It’s a Life or Death Situation, Call the Police

If the RSPCA can’t respond quickly enough or if the dog is in a desperate situation, call the police on 999.

They will send a police officer if they have one in the area, if they don’t, you might need to take action yourself. In which case, ask the police for clearance to do

If you intend on breaking into the car, ask the police for clearance to do so. Get his name and badge number too as this might come in handy if the owner of the dog tries to sue you for criminal damage, you can then say that PC (name), badge number (xxx) gave you authorization.

If they don’t give you clearance, it’s up yo you to decide what happens next.

Click to Call 999

Will I Get into Trouble For Breaking Into a Car to Rescue a Dog?

Ordinarily, breaking into someone’s car would result in charges of criminal damage.

But if you find a dog that is facing life or death, the law could be on your side if you decide to take action.

Section 5(2)(a) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 states that you have a lawful excuse to cause the damage if at the time your break in;

“if at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed that the person or persons whom he believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question had so consented, or would have so consented to it if he or they had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances;.”

In plain English…

If you think the owner of the dog would accept their car being broken into if they knew their dog was about to die, the law could be on your side.

Important Note:

This is our interpretation and is not meant as legal advice. We are not lawyers. Every situation is different and we cannot be held responsible for the actions you may or may not take. This is simply what we would do.

If You Can, Take These Extra Steps

This isn’t necessary but getting taking these extra steps will support your reasons for breaking into a vehicle to rescue a dog in a hot car;

Take a screenshot of the temperature on your phones’ weather app
Get witnesses to take videos and pictures of the dog in distress
Ask them to record your attempt to rescue the dog

Emergency First Aid For a Dog With Heatstroke

We’re very aware that no one leaves the house thinking, ‘I’d better get some gear together, just in case I find a dog in a hot car…’

But by getting some help from witnesses or passers-by, this is very doable.

The steps are simple and could just save a dog’s life.

Remove the dog from the car – be very careful! If the dog is displaying signs of panic or stress it could be unpredictable. You don’t want to get bitten so proceed with caution.
Take him to a cool, shaded area – a grassy verge under a tree will do.
Pour small amounts of room temperature water over the dog – if you need to get some bottled water from the shop DO NOT get it out of the fridge. Putting cold water on the dog at this point is likely to bring his body temperature down too quickly and send him into shock. We need to bring his temperature down gradually. He should never shiver. If he does, stop.
Give him a drink of the water – this is a case of little and often. If he gulps too much down he could vomit and bring it all back up making dehydration worse.
If you have a towel, soak it in the water and wrap the dog in it.
Creating a breeze would help so if you have the means, fan him. A magazine, piece of card would work.
Keep pouring small amounts of water on him until his breathing stabilises. Again, he shouldn’t shiver. Stop if he does.
Get him to the vet as soon as you can, even if he seems to have fully recovered.

What the Laws Says About Leaving Dogs in Hot Cars

While the act of leaving your dog in a car isn’t illegal, animal cruelty is.

Dogs die in hot cars as a result of negligence. If a dog suffers or even worse, dies as a result of being left in a hot car, their owner could be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

They could face the maximum penalty of 51 weeks in prison and/or a fine of up to £20,000 as well as being banned from keeping animals.

Please Help Us Raise Awareness

At Pet Checkers we’re doing our best to help educate dog owners and raise awareness and in doing so, hopefully reduce the number of dogs die in hot cars.

So please, share this article on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media. Please link to this page from your own websites and blogs and help us spread the word.

Thank you.

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