GUEST COLUMN: Dogs die in hot cars, by Rachel Butler, RSPCA

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We’ve had a bit of a strange spring so far — one minute it is chucking it down with the rain, the next it’s baking hot… but then the next day you’ll get a flurry of sleet!

But according to the Met Office, the weather will start to settle a bit now and we’ll start to see warmer temperatures.

And while this is nice, unfortunately it does mean that RSPCA inspectors will see more cases of people leaving their dogs in hot cars — something which we at the RSPCA work very hard to raise awareness of every year. A car is like an oven and it heats up very quickly, even if it is not boiling hot outside.

As an example, last week an RSPCA inspector put a temperature gauge inside his van to record what the temperature would be inside after an hour. That day, outside it was 15 degrees Celsius (or 59 Fahrenheit). After just 60 minutes, the temperature inside the inspector’s van had soared to a staggering 110.3 Fahrenheit - that’s 43.5 degrees Celsius.

Leaving the windows open an inch would have almost zero impact and a dog would begin to suffer very quickly in this heat. Even leaving your dog for five minutes inside a car in these conditions is too long. Therefore it is so important that we continue to spread the message that dogs die in hot cars.

If you see a dog in a car on a warm day, in an emergency dial 999 and report it to the police. The RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and, with no powers of entry, we’d need police assistance at such an incident.

If the situation becomes critical and police can’t attend, many people’s instinct is to break into the car to free the dog.

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/her with cool water. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water.

You can call our 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.