Drivers' ‘tragic’ act killing dogs in 6 minutes: 'Extremely concerning'

In six minutes your dog could be dead.

That’s the warning from the RSPCA, which is renewing a call to pet owners to stop leaving their dogs in cars. When vehicles are parked without shade, even with the windows down the cabin can quickly heat to fatal temperature levels.

RSPCA South Australia chief inspector Andrea Lewis said it’s “extremely concerning” that despite repeated reminders about the issue some drivers still think it’s okay to leave their dog behind. She is aware of “tragic” incidents in which people have forgotten they had their dog in the car and returned home to find it dead on the back seat.

Traffic on the road (left). A dog inside a yellow car (right).
Motorists are continuing to leave their dogs locked inside hot cars. Source: Getty/RSPCA

“Just as you should never leave a young child alone in the vehicle, you should also never leave your dog,” she said. “Dogs can and have died in as little as six minutes after being left inside a car, or they have suffered serious and permanent harm from heat stress or heat-stroke – it is never worth the risk.”

Concerning details of dogs left inside cars

Reports about animals in vehicles in South Australia dropped significantly from 308 in 2018 to just 161 in the last financial year, but last weekend the agency received three reports.

  • 31 degrees - French mastiff left in a camper van for six hours.

  • 34 degrees - Scottish terrier barking inside a Nissan X-Trail.

  • 32 degrees - Border collie panting inside a Mazda 3 parked in full sun.

Temperatures are set to soar this weekend in many capital cities. The RSPCA South Australia has warned it may not have the ability to respond to all incidents at short notice, and to call Triple 0 if it is an emergency.

A child hugging a dog inside a car.
Children and dogs should never be left alone inside a parked car. Source: Getty (File)

People entering shopping centre car parks should be on the lookout for animals left inside cars, because that's where 80 per cent of incidents over the past 12 months occurred.

What are the symptoms of heat stress in dogs?

Symptoms of heat stress can include the dog becoming weak, the colour of their gums may change and the dog could begin to stagger. Looking through the window of a vehicle, you may notice the dog is panting, vomiting, suffering diarrhoea, experiencing seizures, or it may be unconscious.

Dogs should never be left without water and on hot days ute trays and footpaths can cause burns.

The charity is urging people concerned about dogs in hot cars to take the following steps:

  • Take a photo of the dog in the car

  • Write down the vehicle’s make, model, license plate

  • Try to locate the owner

  • Provide water if possible

  • If the dog is showing signs of heatstroke, find a witness to confirm the symptoms

  • Do not leave the dog until you can confirm it is safe

If you have a concern about a dog left in a hot car, contact details for the RSPCA in your state can be found here.

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