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Dogs die in hot cars

Covid-19 update - 18/05/2020

Within lockdown easing in May, we anticipate that many will be using their cars more often – but we urge owners to be extra vigilant about not leaving their dog in the car, especially as the weather warms up.

In particular, some reopened businesses are no longer dog-friendly due to Covid-19, so we would urge owners to check ahead whether rules around welcoming dogs have changed, and to never ‘risk it’ by leaving their dog in their car while they shop, particularly as social distancing means longer queues and one-way systems, so dogs could be left for much longer in vehicles in staggering temperatures.

With some lockdown measures still in place, we’ve also got advice on how to keep your dog cool at home here.

Dogs in hot cars and travelling tips

Is it dangerous to leave your dog in a hot car?

Yes. Never leave your dog in a parked car on a warm day. Dogs mainly control their body temperature by panting. When a dog is very hot, panting isn’t enough to stop them from overheating. In warm weather the temperature inside a parked car can climb rapidly and will be much higher than outside of the vehicle.  Dogs left alone in a car on a hot day can quickly become dehydrated, develop heat stroke or even die.

How long can I safely leave my dog in a car on a warm day?

We would not recommend that you leave your dog unattended on a warm day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Heatstroke can happen quickly and can be fatal.

If I park in the shade, or leave a window open, can I leave my dog in a car on a warm day?

No. The temperature in your car can still rise to dangerous levels, even if you leave the window open, park in the shade or put a sunshade on your window.

If I leave the dog a bowl of water, is it ok to leave a dog in a car on a warm day?

No. Heat stroke can still happen if your dog has access to water.

What are the signs a dog has heatstroke or is in distress?

What should I do if I see a dog trapped in a hot car?

If the dog is not yet distressed

Can I legally break a car window to save the dog?

If the police are unable to attend and the dog is in distress, some people may begin to think about breaking a window to rescue the dog. Be aware that this may be classed as criminal damage and you may need to defend your actions in court.

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 (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).

Documenting your actions if trying to rescue a dog from a hot car

If you think the dog is in danger dial 999 and speak to the police first and ask for their advice. If it is necessary for you to rescue the dog, document your actions as best as possible in case you need to defend yourself in court:

Helping a dog that’s been in a hot car

If the dog is very unwell or unconscious it will need to be seen immediately by a vet. You can find a local vet here. It is important that you start to cool the dog while traveling to the vet - this can make a big difference to whether the dog survives.

Dogs suffering from heatstroke should ideally have their temperatures lowered gradually.  If a dog is cooled too rapidly they can go into shock. Very cold water should not be used if there are other alternatives available.  If there is nothing else to hand, then it is best to use the cold water, but with extra care. Using ice cold water can narrow blood vessels, limiting heat loss, while cooling a dog rapidly till they shiver can generate more heat.

Below are some tips on how to lower a dog’s temperature.

Tips on travelling in the car on a warm day

Tips on travelling on public transport on a warm day