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Hot dogs go in buns…not cars

 Published 23rd August 2021
Driver Guides  General Guides 

With summer finally taking hold and after a year of lockdowns and restrictions, it's inevitable that people will be flocking to the great outdoors. Many of those people will be seeking the perfect day out or staycation with their four-legged friends. With the reality being that dogs are not welcomed everywhere you need to safeguard your pets this summer.

It's like travelling with small children and as many of us know only too well, being prepared makes the trip a whole lot easier.

Unlike children, unfortunately, too many people still think that it's ok to leave a dog in the car on a warm day if the windows are left open or they're parked in the shade. But the truth is, it's still a very dangerous situation for the dog.

A car can become extremely hot very quickly, even when it doesn't feel that warm. When it's 22 degrees outside, in a car it can reach a dangerously high 47 degrees within the hour. With recent temperatures breaking 30 degrees you can imagine how hot your car could get.

Travelling with a dog is great fun but you do have to take additional items with you. You should always carry a water bowl and water, treats, food and medication, toys, a blanket or dog bed, pet first aid kit and of course, being the responsible dog owner you are, doggy bags.

And you should never leave your dog in the car unattended. If the dog becomes ill or dies, you are 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 and/or a fine of up to £20,000.

Road safety and breakdown organisation, GEM Motoring Assist has compiled a short checklist designed to ensure dogs stay safe and comfortable on car journeys:

  • The most sensible thing to do is leave your dog at home on warmer days.
  • If you do need to transport your dog, bring plenty of fresh drinking water and a bowl to help your dog stay cool on the journey.
  • Don't let your dog travel unrestrained. Use a proper travel basket or restraint to create a safer and more comfortable space for them.
  • Make plenty of stops on long journeys to let your dog drink. It can only take a few minutes for dogs to begin experiencing the symptoms of heatstroke.
  • If you suspect your dog is developing heatstroke on a journey, stop somewhere safe and find somewhere cool and shady. If signs of heat exhaustion become apparent - excessive thirst, heavy panting, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes, dizziness - you should go straight to a veterinary surgeon.

Actions to take if you see a dog suffering

On the other side of that coin is what to do if you see a dog suffering in the heat this summer. It can be distressing to see an animal struggling but there are actions you can take to help. The RSPCA is always available for advice, and they've provided a few tips should you find yourself in this situation.

If the dog isn't currently displaying any symptoms of heatstroke it may not have been there very long. If you're in a public car park a pay and display ticket may help you work out how long the dog has been in the car. If you're at a shop or an event you can ask the staff to make an announcement to alert the owner of the situation.

If possible, get someone to stay with the dog to monitor their condition. If they begin to display signs of distress or heatstroke, you should dial 999 immediately. You can also call the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line but if the dog is in danger, dialling 999 should always be the first step. In an emergency, the RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough, and they also have no legal power of entry so they would need police assistance anyway. Dialling 999 should always come first and if necessary, the police will inform the RSPCA if animal welfare assistance is required.

If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away or unable to attend, your instinct may be to break into the car to free the dog. This is totally understandable, but you do need to be careful. If you decide to do this, you should be aware that without proper justification it could be classed as criminal damage and you may need to defend your actions in court.

If the situation reaches that point, make sure you go back to the police and inform them of what you intend to do and why. Take pictures or videos of the dog and the names and numbers of any witnesses to the incident. The law does state that you have a lawful reason to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971). It's hard to imagine any circumstance where a dog owner would value a car window over the life of their dog, but you should always double-check with the police first and cover your actions just in case.

Although hopefully it's a piece of advice you never find yourself having to remember.

A dog is a faithful companion - so don't let them suffer in excessive heat.

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