MARTIN DE RUYTER/Stuff
As the days start to warm up, the SPCA is warning dog owners to leave their canines at home if the trip in the car isn’t for them. (File photo)
As temperatures rise, animal welfare advocates have a message for dog owners – don’t leave them alone in cars.
The SPCA is already getting calls from concerned members of the public seeing dogs left alone in parked cars.
SPCA Southland, Tasman and West Coast team lead Jamie Hancock said the organisation was constantly fielding calls about dogs left in hot cars.
She said nationally, between November 2020 and March 2021, there had been 339 calls from members of the public.
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“In most of those cases, the owners weren’t far away, but we have no way of knowing that was the case … and we’ve spent considerable time tracking those owners down which takes us away from other animal welfare work.”
People shouldn’t be leaving dogs in cars at all, she said, but there were things people could do to ensure their dogs were safe, including leaving contact details visible in the car or a note to say the owner was only five minutes away.
Hancock said owners should also make sure the dog was registered with the council and contact details were up-to-date “because we do use that as an avenue to get in touch with people”.
If we can get in touch quickly, that can help with resolving the issue, she said.
The fine alone should deter owners from leaving their dogs in cars.
Hancock said a $300 fine was the starting point if the SPCA responded with the dog showing signs of heat stress. If worse happened, it could be a prosecutable offence.
But damage on the wallet is nothing compared to the harm caused to a dog left in a car.
When it’s 21 degrees Celsius outside, temperatures in a car parked in the shade with the windows down can exceed 31 degrees in less than 10 minutes. In 30 minutes, it goes up to 40 degrees. On a hot day, the temperature inside the vehicle can exceed 50 degrees.
Dogs could only withstand a body temperature in excess of about 41 degrees for minutes before they suffered “irreparable damage or die”, Hancock said.
And some breeds were more at risk of being affected by heat than others, she said, with brachycephalic breeds (short snout, flat faced) including pugs and bull mastifs finding it even harder to regulate their breathing and cool themselves by panting – the equivalent to humans sweating.
“I would certainly be more nervous leaving a pug in a car, than a medium-sized cross-breed.”
But if you can avoid it, “don’t leave dogs in cars at all”, she said.
SPCA National Inspectorate Manager Alan Wilson said SPCA inspectors were frustrated by some people’s ignorance of the harm leaving an animal in a vehicle could cause.
“Many of these cases involve people who love their dog like a family member and would never want to see them harmed, but they don’t seem to understand that the careless decision to leave their pet in the car for even a few minutes could result in tragedy.”