What to do if you see a dog in a hot car

dogs in hot car

As the weather grows hotter and the RSPCA is warning pet owners never to leave dogs in a hot car. 

Despite repeated, yearly warnings, many owners still risk their pets’ lives by leaving them unattended in vehicles during warm weather – sometimes with the most ridiculous excuses. This can turn deadly in a matter of minutes, as temperatures climb quickly in unattended cars and heat stroke can be fatal. In April, during the Easter Bank Holiday, the RSPCA received 166 emergency calls over animals suffering with heat exposure. Most of them concerned dogs left unattended in hot cars. 

So, what should you do if you see a dog in a car on a warm day? Here’s the RSPCA step-by-step guide to help:

  • Check the animal – is he/she relaxed or distressed? 
  • If the dog seems fairly content and isn’t in immediate danger then try to establish how long they have been unattended in the vehicle and note down the registration. Ask a member of staff to make a tannoy announcement to trace the owner but ask someone to stay with the dog and monitor them.
  • If the dog is in distress or displaying any sign of heatstroke – such as panting heavily, drooling excessively, is lethargic or uncoordinated, or collapsed and vomiting – call 999 immediately and request police. 
  • If the situation becomes critical and police can’t attend, many people’s instinct is to break into the car to free the dog. Please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage. 
  • Make sure you tell the police of your intentions and take photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses. 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.
  • Once removed from the car, move the dog to a shaded/cool area and douse him with cool water. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water. 
  • The dog should be seen by a vet as soon as possible. 

“In an emergency, it is best to dial 999 and report a dog in a hot car to police. The RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and, with no powers of entry, would need police assistance at such an incident,” the RSPCA says. “You can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 for advice but, if a dog is in danger, dialling 999 should always be the first step.”

You can find more advice on keeping animals safe and happy during the warm weather here.

Image and video by RSPCA.


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