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Heatwave sparks dogs in hot cars calls as reports hit three-year high

03 May 2019


BVA has teamed up with a coalition of rescue and rehoming charities, police, and welfare organisations to launch this year’s Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign to highlight the dangers that warm weather can pose to dogs.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has teamed up with a coalition of rescue and rehoming charities, police, and welfare organisations to launch this year’s Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign to highlight the dangers that warm weather can pose to dogs. 

This year the campaign is launching on Dogs Die In Hot Cars Awareness Day (6 May), but despite a major annual campaign each summer, last year saw a three-year high for the number of reports of animals suffering heat exhaustion*. The RSPCA’s emergency line in England & Wales received 8,290 reports last year - despite key advice for members of the public being to report emergencies to police via 999 as officers can attend more quickly and have power of entry to locked vehicles.

Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign manager, Holly Barber from the RSPCA, said:

“Last year was our busiest for three years with almost 8,300 emergency calls made to the RSPCA about this issue - that’s a 5% increase from 2017 and a 15% rise from 2016.

“It’s extremely concerning that despite all of our campaigning, dog owners are still ignoring our warnings and risking their pets’ lives by leaving them alone in cars on warm days. How many more dogs need to die before people realise that that split-second decision - usually made due to convenience - could have life-changing consequences?”

Dogs can really suffer with heat-related conditions when the weather gets warmer. Just a few weeks ago, a terrier puppy was found collapsed in Talbot Green, Wales, suffering from possible heat stroke. A member of the public found the four-month-old pup (see Notes to Editors for image link) on Easter Monday (22 April) when temperatures soared to the mid-20s. The little dog - nicknamed Ollie - was rushed to a vet and put on a drip and thankfully recovered.

A quarter (26%) of the vets (surveyed as part of BVA’s Autumn 2018 Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey) who had seen cases of dogs requiring treatment for heat-related conditions last summer, said that at least one of these cases was a dog whose condition was affected by having been left in a hot car. This is equivalent to almost one in seven vets (13%) having seen a dog come into their practice suffering as a result of being left in a hot car.

British Veterinary Association Junior Vice President Daniella Dos Santos said:

“Vets all too often see the unfortunate and sometimes tragic consequences of dogs being left on their own in cars, and it’s deeply worrying that so many owners are still prepared to take this risk despite numerous warnings. With summer just around the corner, it’s vital that everyone thinks twice about leaving dogs in a hot car even for a short while: ‘not long’ is too long.”

One vet surveyed by the BVA said they’d dealt with a case in which a dog had died from heatstroke in the back of his owner’s Land Rover. The owner, a farmer, had gone to check how combining was going to find the machine had broken down so set about helping to repair it - forgetting his Labrador was in his car.

Another vet recalled treating one of two dogs after it was attacked by the other when they became distressed having been shut inside a car; while another vet treated a dog for an elevated body temperature after being left in a car in the car park of an agricultural show and being removed by show staff and police.

It’s important to remember not to leave any animal in any vehicle or caravan, or in a conservatory or outbuilding, where temperatures can quickly rise, even when it doesn’t feel that warm outside. For example, when it’s 22C outside, within an hour the temperature can reach 47C inside a vehicle, which can result in death.

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

  • In an emergency, it is best to dial 999 and report a dog in a hot car to police. The RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and, with no powers of entry, they would need police assistance at such an incident.
  • If the situation becomes critical and police can’t attend, many people’s instinct is to break into the car to free the dog. But please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage. Make sure you tell the police of your intentions and take photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses. 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 from the car, move the dog to a shaded/cool area and douse him/her with small amounts of room-temperature water. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
  • If the dog isn’t displaying signs of heatstroke, establish how long the dog has been in the car and make a note of the registration. Ask a member of staff to make an announcement of the situation over the tannoy, if possible, and get someone to stay with the dog to monitor its condition.
  • You can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 for advice but, if a dog is in danger, dialling 999 should always be the first step.

The Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign coalition was formed in 2015 and includes Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, British Parking Association, British Veterinary Association, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, The Mayhew Animal Home, National Animal Welfare Trust, The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), PDSA, RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, #TeamOtisUK and Wood Green The Animals Charity.


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