Leaving a dog in a hot car — the cruel offence that could cost you £20,000

Leaving a dog in a hot car — the cruel offence that could cost you £20,000
Leaving a dog in a hot car — the cruel offence that could cost you £20,000

Dog owners are being urged to take special care of their pets if they take them in the car this week as temperatures are predicted to soar.

With forecasters expecting temperatures to reach the mid-30s in some areas, drivers are being reminded that it is dangerous and illegal to leave their dog or any other animal in a hot car.

Deadly heat

Many people still believe that it is acceptable to leave a pet in a car on a hot day as long as the windows are left open or it is parked in the shade.

However, the RSPCA warns that even with an outside temperature of a relatively mild 22 degrees, within an hour the inside of a car can reach a dangerous 47 degrees, raising the risk of potentially fatal heatstroke.

Cars can become dangerously hot inside on even relatively mild days (Picture: Shutterstock)

Exposing an animal to such conditions is not only cruel but it’s also against the law and can carry heavy punishments.

Neil Worth, road safety officer at GEM Motoring Assist, warns: “If the dog becomes ill or dies, the owner is likely to face a charge of animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

“This offence can bring a prison sentence of up to six months in custody and/or a fine of up to £20,000.”

Taking care of your pet

Even if you don’t leave your pet alone in the car, transporting them on hot days can still present risks to their health so if at all possible you should avoid it.

Read more: Drivers risk £2,500 fine for letting pets roam free in the car

However, if you do need to travel with your pet, GEM has come up with advice on how to protect their wellbeing.

Bring plenty of fresh drinking water, and a bowl. Ensure your dog is able to stay cool on a journey. If you suspect the dog might be too hot, stop somewhere safe and give him a good drink of water, preferably in the shade.

Excessive panting or drool can be a sign of heatstroke in dogs (Picture: Shutterstock)

If you suspect your dog is developing heatstroke on a journey, stop somewhere safe and take him into the shade or to somewhere cool.

Signs of heat exhaustion/heatstroke include excessive thirst, heavy panting, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes, dizziness and lethargy.

The RSPCA recommends dousing the animal with cool (not cold) water or using wet towels or a fan to help cool it. You should also let it drink small amounts of cool water and take it to a vet to be checked.

What to do if you see a dog trapped in a hot car

If you see a pet in a vehicle on a hot day, the advice from both GEM and the RSPCA is to take immediate action.

If you’re in a public area such as a shop, venue, event or roadside service area, note the car make, model, colour and registration number, then go inside and ask for an announcement to be made. If this doesn’t bring the owner out, or you’re in a location where finding the owner is impossible, then dial 999 and ask for the police.

Read more: 9 best car seat covers for pets and young children, starting from £5

If you feel the situation is critical be aware that breaking into the car to rescue an animal could still be viewed as criminal damage and you could have to defend your actions in court.

The RSPCA’s advice if you chose to take such action is to make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why. Take pictures or videos of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident.

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.

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