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Millions of Brits ignored dogs left abandoned in cars in hot temperatures

As temperatures are set to soar this weekend, dog owners are being urged to take extra care of their pets, as research reveals millions of Brits have failed to help a dog left alone in a car in warm weather.

The research found that more than half (53%) of Brits have seen a dog left along in a car in warm weather. And worryingly, of these, most (75%) didn’t step in to help the dog left in sweltering conditions.

The research comes after a three-day social experiment saw just four out of hundreds of passers-by ignore the cries of a distressed dog left alone in a car in 28-degree heat. Armed with a fake dog – Annie – a car and realistic sound effects, Confused.com recorded the reactions of passers-by who assumed a real dog had been abandoned in the vehicle on a hot day. Much to the crew’s surprise, the overwhelming majority of passers-by failed to intervene or do anything to help the poor pooch. However, four out of the hundreds did stop to take action, with one trying to open the car, or getting to the dog through an open window.


However, the new research by Confused.com may have uncovered why so many people chose not to step in to help dogs who are suffering in a hot car. It seems there is a great deal of confusion around what should do in this situation. According to the survey, of those who didn’t intervene, nearly one in six (16%) were confused about the best way to do so, while more than one in seven (15%) didn’t know who to contact.


To point people in the right direction, Confused.com has teamed up with RSPCA to advise drivers what to do if they see a dog left alone in a car on a hot day. There are many signs that a dog’s life is under threat, all of which can be observed just by looking through the car window. The RSPCA advises those who think the dog’s life is in danger to call the police.


This confusion is echoed in the fact that one in four (25%) of those who did intervene when they found a dog left alone in a hot car called the RSPCA, according to Confused.com’s research. Nearly one in six (16%) even took matters into their own hands and smashed the car window or broke into the car. Meanwhile, more than one in four (26%) took the right course of action and called the police.


Worryingly, leaving dogs alone in a car on a hot day is far more common than expected. One in four (25%) dog owners admit they have left their dog alone in the car. Of these,  more than three quarters (76%) have done so in warm weather, leaving them for 16 minutes, on average. This is enough time for temperatures to rapidly increase. In fact, a car sat in 24 degree heat can reach a sweltering 34 degrees Celsius in just 10 minutes, and a dangerous 43 degrees after just half an hour.


Typical British weather means the sun isn’t always shining, but this doesn’t mean to say that temperatures are any safer. Worryingly, one in 10 (10%) Brits think cars are unlikely to get dangerously hot when it’s grey and cloudy. Even in these conditions, temperatures can reach the mid-20s and create sweltering conditions inside a car.


And it seems dog owners are more likely to leave their pet in the car on a cooler day. In fact, almost all (98%) of those surveyed who have left their dog alone in a car have done so on a cooler day, for 18 minutes on average.


However, despite very few people stepping in to help a dog left alone in a hot car, the British public feel very strongly towards dog owners who do this. More than half (56%) think offending dog owners should be fined, while one in five (22%) think they should be sent to jail. Currently it is not illegal to leave a dog in a car, but it is an offence to abuse or mistreat an animal in your care. But, perhaps with stronger punishments or more clarity on what to do in these circumstances, fewer dogs will be left alone in the car and with their life and health at risk.

 

Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, says: “When we hear a heat wave is on the way, it’s exciting news. But heading our for the day with our pets can lead to some very serious consequences.

“Unfortunately, we see devastating stories in the news of dogs being left alone in the car on a hot day, and people should understand that this is extremely dangerous. But for innocent bystanders who want to help, the course of action we take isn’t always clear.

“The law around it is confusing. Are we allowed to break into a car if it’s in the interest of saving an animals life? Should we stand by and wait until the owner returns? Who should we call? The RSPCA or the police?

“While the RPSCA may seem like the best people to call, they do not have the right to enter any vehicle. So, we’ve partnered with them to clear up any confusion with a step-by-step guide on the best course of action to take to save a dog’s life.”

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