Over the past weekend Canberra was treated to some beautiful warm weather. The perfect excuse to head to Bunnings and pick up a few supplies for gardening. That’s what I had in mind. As I parked my car at the Belconnen store, I noticed the car directly opposite mine had a little dog in it. All the windows were up and the car was parked in direct sunlight. I immediately went into Bunnings and asked the information desk to make an in-store announcement. They obliged, and the numberplate was called out asking the owners to return to their vehicle immediately. By the time I got back out to the carpark, the car with the dog was gone. This dog was one of the lucky ones.
Dogs left unattended in cars on hot days can die in as little as six minutes. Car temperatures rise quicker than people realise and can reach more than double the outside temperature.
If a dog is left in a hot car it will eventually start being affected by heat stress. The dog will start panting and drooling, eventually it will become disoriented and may start vomiting. Seizures will follow and within a few more minutes your beloved companion will probably be dead.
Just leaving the windows open or parking in the shade does not reduce the car temperature significantly enough to protect a dog from heat stress.
In most cases, people do not leave their dogs in a hot car with any kind of malicious intent. Often, people just don’t realise how quickly the heat rises in a car and how quickly this can harm their dog.
If the car I came across yesterday was still there when I walked back, I would have called the police immediately. The RSPCA also respond to call-outs of this nature, but they are not as heavily resourced as the police are so there’s every chance they can’t get there in time. The police are much more likely to be able to respond quickly and the police also have more authority to force open a car door to rescue the trapped dog.
Canberra gets incredibly hot in the spring and summer months. The RSPCA has already received 15 calls for assistance this month (roughly one call per day) in regards to dogs being left unattended in vehicles. If a dog suffers as a result of being left in a car, the owner can be fined $5500 and can face six months in prison. If a dog dies as a result of being left in a car, charges can reach $22500 in fines and two years in prison.
If you’re heading out on a warm day, only take your dog with you if it can spend the entire time with you. If it can’t, leave it at home where it will be safe and cool.
If you come across a dog in a hot car, call the closest police station immediately and take note of the car, number plate, and dog breed.
A fact sheet on preventing heatstroke in dogs can be found here.
Contact details for the RSPCA can be found here.