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Dogs in hot cars at shows

09 July 2013    16:00

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
•    Consider allowing spectator dogs into the show to help prevent members of the public leaving their dogs in the car when they visit
•    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.

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.


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