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As responsible pet owners, our duty is to ensure our furry companions’ well-being and safety. One important aspect of pet care that often goes overlooked is the issue of leaving pets in cars, particularly during warm weather. In this article, we emphasise the importance of not leaving pets unattended in vehicles and highlight the potential dangers they face.

Is It Legal To Leave An Animal In A Car?

There is currently no law against leaving a pet alone in a vehicle for a period of time. However, we’d like to believe that pet owners should be mindful of the conditions if they leave their cat or dog unattended; not only can it be dangerous and unsettling for animals, but it can also cause serious health issues during freezing or high temperatures. If an animal comes to any harm due to being left in a vehicle, the pet owner risks being fined or even sent to jail under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

What’s The Impact On Your Pet If Left In A Hot Car?

Leaving a pet in a parked vehicle, even for a short period, can have severe consequences, especially when temperatures rise. Dogs and cats are particularly susceptible to heatstroke, which can quickly lead to organ failure and even death. According to the RSPCA, heatstroke can occur in as little as 6 minutes. When the inside of a car can reach scorching temperatures, even on mild or cloudy days – that’s not much time between life and death. Other negative impacts on your pet include:

Dehydration – if you haven’t left any accessible water in your vehicle, your pet has no access to vital liquids to help them cool down and stay hydrated.

Heatstroke – as we said, heatstroke can occur in as little as 6 minutes for animals, causing them all sorts of stress and health issues, including organ failure.

Disorientation – just like humans become a little delirious in the heat, animals can, too, resulting in distress, confusion and vomiting for your furry friend.

Stress – not knowing where their owner is and being in an unfamiliar environment can be traumatic for a pet, leading to chewing, whining or relieving themselves in your vehicle.

Safety risks – if your pet is visible, they’re vulnerable to passersby, who may attempt to break into your car to steal them. Putting your pet and your vehicle at an unnecessary risk. 

Things To Consider When Parking With A Pet

Wise Parking urges pet owners to consider the following risks when deciding whether to leave their pets unattended in their vehicle:

Rapid temperature increases – the temperature inside a parked car can rise by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit within 10 minutes, and this increase continues exponentially. On a hot day, the interior can reach dangerous levels quickly. Imagine that whilst wearing a fur coat!

Shaded parking is not enough – you might think you’re doing the responsible thing of parking inside, under a tree or in the shade. But your car still contains the heat, and as the sun moves, your car can become exposed and quickly reach oven-like conditions.

Limited ventilation – even when windows are cracked open, the airflow inside a parked car cannot cool down the space effectively. Pets can quickly become overwhelmed by heat and suffer from heat exhaustion.

Vulnerability to dehydration – animals left without access to water can rapidly become dehydrated, leading to various health issues. High temperatures exacerbate the risk of dehydration and can have severe consequences for pets’ overall well-being.

Heatstroke and organ failure – dogs and cats regulate their body temperature differently than humans. Their inability to cool down effectively in a hot environment makes them more prone to heatstroke, which can cause irreversible damage to vital organs.

How To Keep Your Dog Cool In Your Car

Don’t leave them alone – ideally, you should never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle for all the reasons we have discussed above.

Have sufficient ventilation – even when driving, your pet should have adequate ventilation through an open window or functional air vents.

Maintain a comfortable temperature – remember, your pet is wearing a few extra furry layers and will warm up quicker than you. If your pet is panting, turn down your heaters. 

Use sunshades – these go some way to help shade your pet from the sun coming in through windows. They’re also great for other passengers blinded by the sun.

Carry water – when travelling, always have water to hand to keep your pet hydrated. If you spot them panting, pull over and let them have a drink.

Pack frozen treats – cool treats and toys or doggy ice lollies help keep your pet cool in warm weather. If you can, keep some in your vehicle whenever you need them.

Taking Action: Responsible Pet Ownership

To ensure the safety and welfare of our pets, Wise Parking encourages pet owners to adopt the following responsible practices:

Never Leave Pets Unattended

Avoid leaving your pets alone in a parked car, regardless of the weather conditions. It is always better to make alternative arrangements for your pet’s care, such as leaving them at home or finding a pet-friendly location.

Plan Ahead

If you need to travel with your pet, plan your trips accordingly. Make sure you have a suitable pet carrier, access to water, and a safe, cool area for them to wait if you need to leave the vehicle briefly.

Spread Awareness

Educate others about the dangers of leaving pets in cars, especially during warmer months. Encourage friends, family, and fellow pet owners to prioritise the safety and well-being of their pets.

Seek Immediate Assistance

If you encounter a pet locked in a hot car, alert the authorities or contact local animal control. Time is of the essence, and your intervention could save a pet’s life.

What To Do If You Spot A Pet In A Car

If you do spot a pet trapped in a vehicle on a hot day, there are specific steps you can take to help them:

Contact the authorities – start by contacting the correct authorities, such as the RSPCA or the local police. You could also contact nearby traffic wardens, the car park owners or the car park management company to see if they can assist. 

Find the owner – ideally, you’ll have someone stay with the vehicle to monitor the situation and the animal’s behaviour while you look for the owner.

Make an announcement – if you’re located somewhere like a gym, supermarket or shopping centre where staff can make a live announcement, note the vehicle’s colour, model and registration so they have all the information to find the owner.

Call 999 – if you are concerned for the animal’s welfare or see they are in serious harm, contact 999, who will dispatch the relevant emergency services or talk you through what to do. 

Avoid breaking the window – although this may feel like the quickest option to help an animal, broken glass could cause further problems, not to mention breaking into someone’s vehicle is a criminal offence, and you could get into serious trouble. 

Wise Thoughts

We adore our four-legged friends, and naturally, we want to take them wherever we go. But, as pet owners, it is our responsibility to prioritise the safety and welfare of our beloved animals. Leaving pets unattended in parked cars, particularly during warm weather, can have devastating consequences. Wise Parking urges pet owners to exercise responsible pet ownership by never leaving their pets alone in vehicles, even for short periods. By spreading awareness, planning ahead, and taking immediate action when necessary, we can ensure the well-being of our furry companions and prevent unnecessary suffering. Let us collectively prioritise our pets’ safety and create a world where animal welfare is safeguarded at all times.

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