SPCA New Zealand

SPCA makes urgent appeal to pet owners after puppy left in 50°C car

24 November 2021
SPCA makes urgent appeal to pet owners after puppy left in 50°C car

As the weather warms, SPCA is pleading with pet owners not to leave their dogs unattended in their vehicles even for a few minutes, and that doing so could result in an instant $300 fine.

Already this month, SPCA has received a surge in calls about dogs being left unattended inside vehicles in the heat, including a five-month-old puppy that was rescued by SPCA’s Inspectors in Wellington. The windows were up and the puppy was showing signs of heat distress, as the temperature inside the vehicle reached 50°C. Even with the windows down and the vehicle in shade, a car can rapidly heat up, putting the dog left inside at risk of heat stroke, irreparable brain damage, or even death.

Pets being left inside hot cars is one of the biggest preventable welfare issues during the summer months, and SPCA Chief Executive Andrea Midgen says it’s disappointing the message still isn’t getting through to some pet owners.

“You wouldn’t leave a child unattended in a hot car, so I’m asking people to do the same for their furry family members. It’s pretty simple; if you love them, don’t leave them,” says Ms Midgen. “Always take your dog with you when you leave your vehicle, even if it’s just for a few minutes, and if you can’t do that, please keep them at home.”

Between November 2020 and March 2021, SPCA received 339 welfare complaints relating to dogs being left unattended inside hot cars. It’s an offence under the Animal Welfare Act to leave a dog in a hot vehicle if it’s showing signs of heat stress, such as excessive panting, drooling or hyperventilation, and is trying to seek shade. Pet owners whose dogs are found in this state can be issued with a $300 infringement notice, as well as the cost of repairing a window if SPCA’s Inspectors are forced to break it to rescue an animal trapped inside the car.

“It’s frustrating to see animals needlessly suffer like this because their owners don’t understand how dangerous it is to leave them in a hot car. Leaving them for even just a few minutes on a warm day while you pop into the shops could have devastating consequences, so just don’t do it,” says Ms Midgen.

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 exceed 50°C.

SPCA National Inspectorate Manager Alan Wilson says his team of Inspectors deal with this issue on a daily basis throughout summer and are frustrated by some people’s ignorance of the harm it can cause an animal.

“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,” says Mr Wilson. “We don’t want to see any animal suffer from something that’s totally avoidable, so please take your dog with you when you leave the car, or leave them at home.”

People who are concerned about an animal that’s trapped in a hot vehicle should contact Police or SPCA immediately.

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