The RSPCA has received more than 600 emergency calls in the space of two weeks relating to dogs suffering in hot environments, and as soaring temperatures continue across much of the UK, chances are there’ll be more to come.
A lot of people believe it’s okay to leave dogs in cars when it’s warm - especially if they leave the window open a crack or park in the shade - but it’s dangerous and the fact of the matter is: dogs can die in hot cars. A car can become as hot as an oven very quickly - when it’s 22 degrees, it can reach 47 degrees in a car within the hour.
So what should you do if you see a dog sitting in a car on a hot day? Firstly, you should call the police on 101 (the non-emergency number) or 999 if the animal is displaying any sign of heatstroke - such as panting heavily, drooling excessively, is lethargic or uncoordinated, or collapsed and vomiting, a RSCPA spokesperson told HuffPost UK. “The RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and, with no powers of entry, we’d need police assistance at such an incident,” they explained.
It’s worth noting you can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 for advice but, if a dog is in danger, calling the police should always be the first step.
So what happens 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,” RSPCA’s spokesperson said.
That said, if the situation is critical you can break the window - but you need to follow a certain procedure to avoid legal ramifications. “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,” they said. “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.”
But don’t do this unless you are certain of your grounds for this action and are prepared to defend your actions at court in the unlikely event any action was taken.
Once the dog has been removed from the car, it’s important to move them to a shaded or cool area and douse them with water. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water, if you can.
“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,” the RSPCA spokesperson said. If you’re in a car park they suggest you 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.
It’s not just cars that pose a danger to dogs in hot weather. Animal charity PDSA has warned of the dangers of leftover barbecues after a dog called Mutley, from Bristol, needed life-saving surgery to remove a kebab skewer.
PDSA vet Simon Wheeler said if the owner of the Labrador-cross hadn’t spotted her dog eating a sausage and wooden skewer while out walking, “the skewer could have been inside his body for days and even pierced his organs which could have been life-threatening”.
“This could have ended very differently for Mutley,” said Wheeler. “It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to tidy up any kind of litter. And with the sun set to continue shining this weekend, anyone enjoying a barbecue should be extra vigilant if there are pets around.”