Risk assessment - Dogs in hot cars

 

It is the responsibility of the Show Organiser to address matters concerning health and safety, and fire prevention at all licensed Kennel Club shows.

The Kennel Club looks at some of the ways Championship shows avoid dogs being left in cars

So far this year, the British summer weather has been as alarmingly unpredictable as ever - offering chilling cold and searing heat, with no real pattern emerging.  With this unpredictability comes a responsibility - making sure dogs are not left unattended in a car.

Every year the Kennel Club hears reports of dogs being cooked alive after being left in a car in hot weather.  In common with many animals, dogs are extremely sensitive to heat, and even on a mildly warm day they can quickly overheat - even with the car windows open and water available - as temperatures can quickly heat up to around 50 degrees Celsius.

The Kennel Club has been looking at the ways that some dog show societies try to deal with this issue when organising and running a dog show - often the largest gathering of dogs and humans in any one place at one time - and with exhibitors travelling across the country to compete, it is crucial that they too remember the potentially fatal consequences of leaving their dogs in the car alone

Spectator dogs

Some shows, including City of Birmingham and Leeds, have opted to allow spectator dogs into the showground.  This works well as it provides both exhibitors and members of the public with the opportunity to keep their dogs with them, helping to keep them safe and comfortable.  Liz Stannard, Secretary of Leeds, said: "Allowing spectator dogs into the show works tremendously well for us.  It is useful for exhibitors who may have had to bring along a dog that isn't being shown, and is the same cost as entering a dog as Not For Competition anyway, so it seems to keep everyone happy.  Members of the public simply fill out a form, pay a £10 fee and then wear a 'spectator dog' lanyard throughout the day.  It offers the public the opportunity to bring along their dogs to compare them with the dogs being shown and to see if showing is something that they might want to get involved in, so allowing spectator dogs into the show can help keep the dogs safe as well as promoting dog showing to a wider audience, which is handy.  It also makes good economic sense."

Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary, said: "Letting spectator dogs into a show means that owners can keep their four-legged friends with them, which is usually the preferred approach from the dogs' point of view!  On top of that, charging a fee means that the show, or a dog related charity, may make some extra money, so it is generally a win-win - the show benefits and so do the dogs, exhibitors and members of the public."

Dog creche

Another way to minimise the number of dogs being left in cars at dog shows is to make use of an 'unentered dogs tent', something which has been employed by many of the large shows for many years.  The tent acts like a canine crèche, a place where dogs can relax and stay cool, whilst being taken care of by experienced dog lovers.

A hospitality suite for dogs is the perfect way to help avoid tragedies from occurring, says Angela Mitchell, Secretary of Birmingham Dog Show Society which runs Birmingham National show.  Angela said: "Having an unentered dogs tent works really, really well for us at the show.  It means that those who are showing can leave a dog there safely, knowing it will be looked after.  We are very flexible with how we work it - owners can just turn up with their dogs, there is no pre-booking system, and they can return to see their dogs or exercise them whenever they want."

One of the first championship shows to incorporate the unentered dogs tent was Southern Counties, over thirty years ago, and the initiative is still going strong today, with a little help from the Rottweiler Welfare Association who man the tents and take care of the dogs at a number of championship shows across the country.  The Rottweiler Welfare Association also manage the unentered dogs tent at a number of other championship shows, including one of the ultimate summer shows, Windsor.

Of course, when hosting an unentered dogs tent, it must be considered whether or not the conditions will be suitable for the dogs.  Caroline Kisko says: "Different shows will choose to do things differently depending on what is best for the dogs within the environment of the show.  It needs to be considered whether or not an unentered dogs tent, should that be the chosen practice, offers good facilities and would be preferable over leaving dogs in a well-ventilated, cool van, for example.

"These areas should aim to be relatively quiet and calming, with plenty of water and space for the dogs, including cages or benching, depending on what works for individual dogs.  Measures must be put into place too of course to ensure that the area is well ventilated and kept cool."

So what happens if a dog is found in distress in a car?  Shows such as Windsor, that offer facilities like the unentered dogs tent, have a strict policy on dogs in cars. Windsor Secretary, Irene Terry, said: "We patrol the car park every hour to check no dogs have been left unattended in cars and are in distress. The process following the discovery of a dog stuck in a car is very regimented, starting a call out over the PA system, which would include the car make and registration number, followed by another if the first was unsuccessful.  We would, if possible, use the number on the car parking pass to identify the exhibitor.  Judging will then be stopped if necessary until the owner has been located.  We do occasionally get a bit of stick for this but the welfare of the dogs has to be the priority.  The show vet will check for signs of distress on the dog and if necessary the car will be forcibly opened to free the dog."

Tips for those running a dog show:

  • Host a 'canine crèche' in the form of an unentered dogs tent
  • Source volunteers to patrol the car parks regularly throughout the show to check for dogs left in cars that may be distressed
  • Put up posters and give out leaflets on the dangers of leaving dogs in cars
  • Direct people to the Kennel Club's Don't Cook Your Dog video.  This can be found by searching 'Don't Cook Your Dog' on YouTube.
  • Consider allowing spectator dogs into the show to help prevent members of the public leaving their dogs in the car when they visit

Thanks to the hard work of those running championship shows, and the responsible exhibitors who enter, incidents of dogs being left in cars at shows are relatively few and far between.  Unfortunately the UK is never guaranteed a hot and sunny summer, but putting provisions in place to avoid having to leave dogs in cars in any weather is the most sensible move to help safeguard their welfare.

Sample risk assessment

Activity Hazard Control Measures
A dog(s) inside a vehicle within the precincts of a show including its environs, car and caravan parks and approaches. Death or cause suffering to a dog. Prominent notices printed in show schedule and on the show entry form (see below for detail).
    Prominent notices placed in Car Park (see below for detail).
    Exhibitors' cars identified by printing each exhibitor's ring number(s) on prepaid car park labels. Labels to include a warning notice (see below for detail).
    Arrangements (preferably by RSPCA or Police) made for car park(s) etc to be regularly patrolled whilst these areas are in use to inspect vehicles for dogs left alone.
    Clear written instructions to those patrolling car park on steps to be taken when a dog is found in an apparent distressed condition in a vehicle. Clear escalation procedure. (See below for example)
    Those patrolling car park to have means of effective and speedy communication with show official(s).
    As far as is possible to provide suitable cover outside the show for dogs not entered for competition. Such provision to be monitored.
    To set "not for competition" entry fee to the minimum level or even free to encourage owners to enter their dogs NFC rather than leave them unattended at home or in their vehicles in the show's car park.
    The Show Society to appoint a responsible person (along with the Vet if on site) to manage reported incidents.
    Regular tannoy announcements during course of show reminding exhibitors/spectators not to leave their dog(s) in their vehicles.
    Show Vet in preparation for show and as far as is possible to provide satisfactory equipment/medication to cope with reported incidents.

New Kennel Club Regulations relating to dogs in hot cars

F, G, H, I, and J new paragraph 2

L new paragraph 1

Welfare of Dog

An exhibitor (or competitor) whose dog is entered at a Kennel Club licensed event should take all reasonable steps to ensure the needs of their dog(s) are met, and should not put their dog's health and welfare at risk by any action, default, omission or otherwise. A breach of this Regulation may be referred to the General Committee for disciplinary action under Kennel Club Rules and Regulations.

Entry Form statement

Your dog is vulnerable and AT RISK if left in a vehicle in high temperatures and even on days considered as slightly warm. Please take care of your dog.

If your dog is found to be at risk forcible entry to your vehicle may be necessary without liability for any damage caused.

Show Schedule Notice

Your dog is vulnerable and at risk during hot weather and the Kennel Club offers the following guidance to help guide you through the do's and don'ts travelling to and whilst at KC licensed events.

  • When travelling to a show please take a moment to consider whether the route to the show is on a busy holiday route, and leave earlier to avoid increased time in traffic jams.
  • If your vehicle is not air-conditioned seriously consider whether travelling to the show is a good idea at all.
  • The vehicle should be as fully ventilated as possible, and plenty of stops should be taken, with lots of water available to drink.
  • Ensure your dog is not sitting in full sunlight.  There should be plenty of free flowing air around the dog.
  • At the show, your dog is vulnerable and at risk if left in a vehicle in high temperatures.
  • Keep the dog in the shade - take your own shade for example a large umbrella and always have plenty of water available to drink so your dog stays well hydrated.
  • Avoid your dog taking part in unnecessary exertion, or from standing in exposed sunlight for extended lengths of time.

Remember, if you feel hot your dog is very likely to feel much hotter and dehydrated, and this could lead to dire results. Please look after your dog's welfare.

Warning:  if your dog is found to be at risk, forcible entry to your vehicle may be necessary without liabililty for any damage caused.

Anyone whose dog is entered at a Kennel Club licensed event should take all reasonable steps to ensure the needs of their dog(s) are met, and should not put a dog's health and welfare at risk by any action, default, omission or otherwise. Breach of Kennel Club Regulations in this respect may be referred to the General Committee for disciplinary action under Kennel Club Rules and Regulations.

Right to Refuse Entries. Exhibitors/Competitors are reminded that show societies have the right under Kennel Club Regulation to refuse any entry.

Car Park Pass

Your dog is vulnerable and at risk during hot weather.

Please look after your dog's welfare.

Warning:  if your dog is found to be at risk, forcible entry to your vehicle may be necessary without liabililty for any damage caused.

Car & Caravan Park Notice

Your dog is vulnerable and at risk during hot weather.

Please look after your dog's welfare.

Anyone whose dog is entered at a Kennel Club licensed event should take all reasonable steps to ensure the needs of their dog(s) are met, and should not put a dog's health and welfare at risk by any action, default, omission or otherwise. Breach of Kennel Club Regulations in this respect may be referred to the General Committee for disciplinary action under Kennel Club Rules and Regulations.

Warning:  if your dog is found to be at risk, forcible entry to your vehicle may be necessary without liability for any damage caused.

Show Management - Escalation procedure

  • The show society must appoint a responsible person who along with the show Vet (if on site) should manage the proper response to reports of a dog found in a distressed condition in a vehicle.
  • Once a report has been received from the Car Park marshals, a tannoy announcement must be made giving as much detail of the dog involved, its breed, make and registration number of the vehicle and name of the owner. A time limit should be given before further action is taken.
  • If time allows a show official should be dispatched to the show ring for the breed to make an announcement and/or benching area (if appropriate).
  • At the same time as the above two actions, the responsible person(s) should attend the vehicle.
  • If a Police Officer or RSPCA official is on site it is preferable that he/she is in attendance at the vehicle.
  • If no response has been received from the announcement within the time limit and if in the opinion of the Vet (or responsible person), the condition of the dog allows for a final call being made over the tannoy, then this should be done.
  • If there is no response and it is believed the dog should be removed from the vehicle for its immediate protection then appropriate action should be taken.
  • It is recommended that there is more than one witness to this and that video and/or photographic evidence should be taken. (Show Society should purchase a digital camera).
  • Following removal of the dog, the Vet's advice must be followed.  In the event there is no Vet in attendance the responsible person should take appropriate action to immediately lower the dog's temperature and when it is considered appropriate the dog should be taken to the show's vet.
  • A full report and statements should be made covering the entire incident. The Kennel Club will require such evidence to consider taking actions under its Rules and Regulations so that the dog owner (s) can be asked to account for their actions.

Information for Show Societies

If you cause damage to property without lawful excuse or authority such action may result in criminal or civil liability.

However, if it is brought to the attention of a member of the society that a dog is locked in a vehicle and in the opinion of the responsible person the dog is in great distress or near to death, and in the opinion of the responsible person there is no alternative way to secure the release of the dog without causing damage to the vehicle, the responsible person will have a lawful excuse for causing damage to the vehicle in order to release the dog provided that;

  • The dog is in immediate need of protection and,
  • The means of protection taken are reasonable in all the circumstances.

No damage should be caused to a vehicle unless and until all reasonable steps have been taken to release the dog by other means. In all such cases, the escalation procedure must be full deployed and a complete log and report of the action must be made including details of the control/preventative measures taken by the society are in place (i.e. risk assessment). Any damage caused must be the least necessary to secure the release of the dog.

If the responsible person honestly believes that a dog is at risk and that he/she uses reasonable steps to enter the vehicle to access the dog and the above advice and guidance has been followed, this will provide a defence to any allegation of criminal damage [Section 5(2) and (3) Criminal damage Act 1971].

Related Topics

Registered Clubs and Societies

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