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Keep your pets cool on hot journeys

 Published 28th July 2022
Driver Guides  General Guides 

In case you missed it, the weather has been, at times, exceptionally warm recently. And the weather forecasters suggest there could be more on the way.

But when the temperature does soar please remember your pets if you have to travel. For a nation of supposed dog lovers, we can be remarkably cavalier about locking them in hot cars while we “just nip into the shop”.

Road safety and breakdown organisation GEM Motoring Assist has been encouraging pet owners to ensure their animals are kept cool and safe on car journeys during hot weather. When the sun shines and the warm weather heads our way we now know temperatures in the high 30s, and even into the 40s aren't impossible.

If you are travelling with your pets ensure you don't put them at risk by leaving them without shade, water, or ventilation. This isn't just a good idea – it's the law. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it's illegal to leave an animal in a hot vehicle. If your pet becomes ill or dies, you are likely to face a charge of animal cruelty that could result in a prison sentence of up to six month and/or a fine of up to £20,000.

Pet checklist for car journeys

GEM has compiled a short checklist designed to ensure pets stay safe and comfortable on car journeys:

  • If you must transport your pet, bring plenty of fresh drinking water, and a bowl. Ensure they can stay cool on the journey.
  • Make plenty of stops on long journeys to give your pets a good drink of water as they aren't able to sweat in the way that humans can. Dogs cool themselves by panting and sweating through their paws, so it only takes a few minutes for dogs left in cars on hot days to begin experiencing the distressing symptoms of heatstroke.
  • If you suspect your pet is developing heatstroke on a journey, stop somewhere safe and find somewhere cool and shady. However, if signs of heat exhaustion become apparent (for example excessive thirst, heavy panting, rapid pulse, fever, vomiting, glazed eyes, dizziness), you should go straight to a vet.
  • Don't let your pets travel unrestrained. Instead, use a proper travel basket or crate to create a safer space. Dog seatbelts and travel harnesses are also available.
  • If you see a pet in a vehicle on a hot day, take immediate action. For example, if you're in a supermarket, roadside service area or retail centre car park, 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.

The best advice in extreme heat is to stay indoors and out of the sun completely. If this isn't possible and you have to go out with your pets make sure you turn on the air conditioning in your lease car, plan plenty of refreshment stops and keep their exposure to the heat to a minimum. You wouldn't go wandering around in a heatwave whilst wearing a fur coat, so don't expect your pets to do it either.

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