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SPCA’s plea to public: Stop leaving dogs in hot cars

SPCA is once again strongly reminding members of the public of one simple rule when it comes to your furry companions this summer; never leave dogs in hot cars, even if the windows are down.

As a hot, dry El Niño summer approaches, SPCA Inspectors have already received dozens of calls about dogs being left inside cars on warm days. Most recently, a labrador retriever that was left unattended in a vehicle in direct sunlight for more than 30 minutes while its owners went to the shops in Wellington. During that time, the dog began panting heavily and licking the windows, before hiding in the shaded footwell to avoid the heat.

SPCA National Inspectorate Manager Alan Wilson says it’s one of the biggest preventable animal welfare issues during summer, and it’s frustrating the message doesn’t seem to be getting through.

“Fortunately, in this case the dog’s owners returned to the vehicle and the dog did not suffer any serious harm. But we’re seeing this type of behaviour far too often,” says Mr Wilson. “Pet owners need to take more responsibility this summer and use common sense. Even on a mild day with the windows down, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 30°C within minutes. It’s simply not good enough to still be receiving such a significant number of calls about dogs that have been left inside cars in the scorching heat.”

In the five months between Oct 2022 and Feb 2023, SPCA received 532 complaints regarding dogs being left in hot cars. This equates to approximately 10 percent of the total number of animal welfare complaints received during that period.

“When it’s 21°C outside, temperatures in a car parked in the shade with the windows down can exceed 31°C in less than ten minutes. In 30 minutes, it goes up to 40°C. On a hot day, the temperature inside the vehicle can easily exceed 50°C. A dog simply won’t survive in this heat for very long.” says Mr Wilson.

It’s an offence under the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018, to leave a dog in a hot vehicle if they are showing signs of heat stress, such as excessive panting, drooling or hyperventilation, and trying to seek shade. Pet owners, whose dogs are found in this state, can be issued with a $300 infringement notice.

“If you see a dog in a vehicle that’s exhibiting any of these signs, please call Police on 111 or SPCA immediately,” says Mr Wilson. “And please, spread the word to your family, friends and neighbours that leaving dogs in cars on a warm day is incredibly dangerous and potentially life threatening. No one wants to see their beloved pet become sick or die from heat stroke because of something that was completely avoidable.”

For more information on how to keep your pets safe this summer, head to SPCA’s website.


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