Dogs die in hot cars: An inspector’s first-hand account

Our inspectors and officers have one of the most rewarding jobs – but also one of the hardest. There are times they have to deal with very difficult situations and very difficult people. But there are also times where they are left broken-hearted by the calls they respond to.

Justin StubbsFor Peterborough Inspector Justin Stubbs, one of those calls came on 16 June last year.

A heart-breaking story

I’ve been an RSPCA inspector for seven years and some of the things I’ve seen during that time have made me angry while others have broken my heart.

On 16 June 2016, my heart broke not only for three dogs who lost their lives, but also for their owner. It was overcast that day and between 16-19 degrees Celsius. Three dogs were left in a car while their owner went into the gym in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. By the time I was called to the scene by police, all three dogs had perished. A heart-breaking illustration of why our message every summer is simple: Dogs Die in Hot Cars.

No one leaves their dogs in a car to die on purpose. They believe their dog will be fine for ‘just a few minutes’. They leave their pets because it’s convenient, while they pop into the shop to pick up milk or to go for a quick bite to eat at the pub. And when they return to find a police officer or RSPCA inspector waiting for them, their response is usually along the lines of: “I was only five minutes.” But ‘not long’ is too long.

I can’t unsee the terrible things I’ve seen

Sometimes they might apologise and listen to our advice. But many, who believe their pets are fine, insist that onlookers who reported them are overreacting. Then, they get into their car and, without exception, drive off with their windows down and their air conditioning on. It’s too hot for them inside their car – where temperatures, within an hour, can soar to 47 degrees Celsius – but their dog, in his thick fur coat, will be fine. It’s baffling.

I can’t unsee the terrible things I have seen. When you go home at night, it’s difficult to put out of your mind the suffering of any animal left in the heat – in a car, a conservatory, even a caravan – as they frantically pace, gasping for air and trying desperately to find a way to escape. It’s hard to think of anything more frightening for them.

So, in my desperate attempts to stop any more pets from suffering this horrendous fate – and any more owners having their beloved pet’s death on their conscience – I’m pleading with owners this summer: please never leave your dog in the car. Leave them at home where they will be safe and cool. And where they will survive.

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