Every summer, the public witnesses dogs left in parked cars, sometimes in distress, panting to little avail as their owners have left them to pop out "only for a few minutes". As a veterinary practice, we've also attended to several dogs displaying signs of heatstroke - it's distressing for all involved. There is a misconception that lowering the windows a little in a car will alleviate the heat inside. However, if you have ever tried sitting in a parked car without the air-con to cool you on a warm day you will be well aware of how quickly it becomes uncomfortable.
Holly Barber from the RSPCA recently stated that "Last year was our busiest for three years with almost 8,300 emergency calls made to the RSPCA about this issue - that's a 5% increase from 2017 and a 15% rise from 2016." (source British Veterinary Association website). It continues to happen and owners continue to take risks.
Dogs regulate their core body temperature in a different way to us. They don't sweat, they pant. Even on a moderately warm day, the temperature inside the vehicle rises quickly and, in turn, a trapped dog will become uncomfortable and increasingly at risk as it becomes harder to regulate its own core temperature while the air in the vehicle heats further.
Should you see an animal in distress inside a parked car then it's best to dial 999 in the first instance. The RSPCA may not be able to attend as quickly and so police advice should be sought - taking photos (videos) and seeking names of witnesses would also help in the case of a forced entry becoming necessary. However, any forced entry should be notifed to the police first as it could be considered criminal damage. 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
Heatstroke is serious. Know the facts and let's start eliminating the suffering together.
Here are some useful tips from The Kennel Club on how to get the most out of the summer with your dog.