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‘Stay home, Protect dogs, Save lives’: Dog owners urged to keep pets safe this summer

Dogs Die in Hot Cars group issue canine lockdown for hot summer days.

As lockdown restrictions ease for people, dog owners are being urged to safeguard their pets as the weather heats up this summer.

The Dogs Die in Hot Cars coalition group has launched a ‘doggy lockdown’ during heatwaves for our beloved pets this summer, in a bid to keep them safe as the weather hots up.

Dogs Trust veterinary director Paula Boyden said: “We’re all pleased that lockdown is finally easing and we can begin to safely see our loved ones again, and get out and about to enjoy the warm summer weather.

“But we’re urging pet owners to consider keeping their pets at home during the hottest parts of the day when temperatures can soar. While it’s important to exercise your dog and continue to meet their welfare needs, sometimes it is in their best interests to leave them at home for short periods if you’re going out to enjoy the hot weather and leave their walkies until the cooler evenings or early morning.

“This year, the Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign group is launching the ‘Stay home, Protect dogs, Save lives’ message in a bid to prevent any pets from suffering during the hot weather.”

The Dogs Die in Hot Cars coalition group is made up of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, The British Parking Association, British Veterinary Association (BVA), Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, Mayhew, National Animal Welfare Trust, The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), PDSA, RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, TeamOtis-UK and Wood Green, The Animals Charity.

As many families - some who have taken on new dogs during lockdown - head off for a staycation over the Bank Holiday Weekend, the group is urging caution to those planning to take their dogs away with them. Bank Holiday Monday is also Dogs Die in Hot Cars Awareness day, when the group seeks to raise awareness of the dangers of hot weather.

RSPCA dog welfare expert Dr Samantha Gaines said: “We hope the campaign will remind owners that our pets may need a helping hand to stay safe, happy, comfortable and cool during the warm summer months.

“We know families love their pets and want to keep them close but, sometimes, it may be safer to leave your four-legged friends at home. Dogs can suffer from heatstroke during hot weather and this can be extremely dangerous, and even prove fatal.

“We’re calling on pet owners to put the welfare of their dogs first this summer. If you’re heading out and about then consider whether your pet may be happier in the cool at home, only walk them during the cooler hours of the day, and never leave your dog in a car unattended on a warm day.”

Top tips for pet owners this summer

  • Avoid exercising your pet during excessively hot weather and walk early in the morning or late in the evening when it’s cooler.
  • Remember that pavements can get very hot and may burn your pets’ paws.
  • Don’t let your pet get sunburnt - use pet-safe sun cream.
  • Know the early signs of heatstroke which include panting, difficulty breathing, tiredness, less keen to play, drooling and vomiting and take immediate action. Stop exercising your dog, bring your dog inside into a cool area, give your dog a drink and seek veterinary advice immediately. Severe heatstroke can cause multiple seizures, complete loss of consciousness, loss of coordination, confusion and vomiting and diarrhoea with blood. If untreated it can prove fatal.
  • Ensure animals have access to shade and fresh drinking water at all times.
  • Use a cooling mat or wrap an ice pack or frozen water bottle in a tea towel for your pet to lie on.
  • Use cold treats from the fridge for added moisture or make an ice lolly from pet-friendly ingredients.
  • Never leave your pet in a vehicle, caravan, conservatory or outbuilding in the warm weather as they can quickly overheat, even if it doesn’t seem particularly hot to you. (Leaving your pet alone in a vehicle or tied up outside can also put them at greater risk of being stolen.)

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

In an emergency (if an animal is displaying any sign of heatstroke such as panting heavily, drooling excessively, is lethargic, collapsed or vomiting) dial 999 and report a dog in a hot car to 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. But 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 pour small amounts of cool water over their body. Don’t use cold water as this could put them into shock. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water and take him to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency.

If the dog isn’t displaying signs of heatstroke, establish how long the dog has been in the car and make a note of the registration. Ask a member of staff to make an announcement of the situation over the tannoy, if possible, and get someone to stay with the dog to monitor its condition.

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.

29th April, 2021