Forty dogs had to be rescued from cars in Canberra in the past 12 months with the NRMA and the RSPCA warning people that the consequences can be fatal, particularly as the weather hots up.
RSPCA ACT warns that it can take as little as six minutes for a dog to die in a hot car with even mild temperatures tending to skyrocket inside when a car is left locked up.
The NRMA says that it will “drop everything” to respond to calls about animals being left in cars because of the “grave danger involved”.
Both organisations stress that the risk of leaving animals in cars even for a short time is too high and people should avoid doing it altogether.
NRMA spokesperson Rebecca Page told Region Media that people often focus on the dangers of leaving children locked in cars but it’s important to also be aware that it can be potentially fatal for pets.
Ms Page said that the main places people tend to leave dogs in cars include service stations, shopping centre car-parks, hospitality venues and outside neighbourhood shops, pubs and clubs.
“It’s never okay to leave an animal locked in a vehicle no matter how quick you think you’ll be or how much air you think there may be,” said Ms Page.
“Once you’ve got that vehicle closed the temperature can tend to skyrocket.”
Ms Page said that sometimes people are just leaving their dog in the car while they pay for petrol but get back to find the car has self-locked.
“The best way to avoid danger is to take the pet with you. If you can’t do that then leave it at home,” she said.
RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Robertson said that often Canberrans don’t understand the risks but they are very high.
“If you leave a dog in a car on a 30-degree day the temperature inside the car is about 54 degrees,” Ms Robertson said.
“It can take only six minutes for an animal to die from heat stroke.
“We are starting to get into the summer months and temperatures can really soar in the ACT. If you take that, along with the six minutes, the best thing is to simply not leave your dogs unattended in a car.”
Ms Robertson said that dogs can’t sweat and so if they are in distress they will display excessive and relentless panting, drooling, salivation and restlessness.
“If you’re a concerned citizen and you see an animal that looks like it is in distress just take action immediately because every minute counts.”
Ms Robertson said that if the doors aren’t locked then let the dog out but If they are locked then try to find the owner as quickly as possible. For example, if it is a shopping centre car-park then take down the registration number and alert centre management who can put a call out.
“If that’s not possible then phone the police or phone the NRMA,” she said.
According to the NRMA, you do not need to be a Member to call the NRMA on 13 11 11 to have a dog rescued from a car and these calls are given priority because of the danger involved.
You can also contact the emergency services on 000 if you think the situation is life-threatening and they may break a window themselves or liaise directly with the NRMA to assist.
The NRMA said that there are specific offences which apply to locking dogs in cars which can lead to fines and prison sentences. For more information please click here.