Dogs in hot cars are at great risk. Here’s what to do…

Despite the numerous warnings, people still leave their dogs in hot cars. Here’s what to do should you feel you need to break a window…

We all hear about it but I just saw encountered it! A poor dog left inside a hot car outside the local pharmacy. I found myself at a bit of a loss of what to do, but then the owner came out. I was pleasant but said he looked very hot, that you simply can’t do it. You can guess what the response was, an irritated “I was only a second” and a face like I was the dickhead. Another day, another crap dog owner.

Despite all the warnings, people still leave their dogs in hot cars.  It’s estimated the inside temperature of a car magnifies the outside temp by around 25% in the first 10mins. So, on a 25 degree celsius day, in just a few minutes, the temperature inside a parked car will reach 32 degrees. On a 30 degree celsius day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 38 degrees. With no wind to cool you down, this is seriously dangerous for dogs trapped inside.

dogs die in hot cars
[This graph is from the US and thus in Farenheit so I barely understand it, but I get the line, it rises sharply!]

If you ever see dogs in hot cars, here’s what to do, step by step…

1. If you see a dog left alone in a hot car, don’t leave them. Look around for the owner of the car.

2. If not in sight and you conclude the dog is in jeopardy call the cops. Ask for an estimated time of arrival which might play into your next actions.

3. Immediately after you hang up the phone, take down the car’s reg, model, colour, etc, in case they drive off later.

4. Take pictures, first of the dog inside. This is crucial evidence. While you have the camera out, take a pic of their parking ticket which should indicate how long the dog has been in there.

5. Call a passer by. Ask them to go into the supermarket or whatever store the car is parked outside and ask them to alert the staff who in turn may be able to summon the owner of the car back asap.

6. If an unacceptable amount of time passes and you conclude his life is at stake and the police are too far away know that if you decide to break the window of your own accord, you can be liable for criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court. Before I would consider this, I would call the cops back, asking again the ETA and inform them of my actions and ideally get yourself a witness.

The law covers you to an extent but only if you have a lawful excuse to commit damage. This requires you believing that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (in the UK this would be covered by section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).

7. How to break a car window in an emergency…

  • First, obviously, focus on the window furthest from the animal / person inside
  • Never target the windscreen or back window, these are much stronger and you are unlikely to get through
  • Car windows are made from tempered glass and are designed to resist blunt force. As such, pounding on a window with a blunt object if often pretty futile, particularly if you misguidedly think your fists will can do it like in the movies. You need to find something with a point. All cars have an emergency kit and these almost always contain a car hammer/car window escape tool. They have a point often made of porcelain which takes very little effort to get the job done. Everyone should know where this kit is in their car. If you don’t now’s the time to learn. If there is not tool to hand, a pointed bar or even rock will do the job.
  • While the glass breaks in a relatively non-shatter manner, still think about covering your eyes before impact.
  • When striking, target around the edges of the pane, not the centre, as this is where the glass is weakest.

8. If the dog is suffering heatstroke, please follow these guidelines for heatstroke in dogs.

Please, DO NOT LEAVE the scene until the situation has been resolved.

Dr. Conor Brady

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.