The Do’s and Don’ts of Leaving Your Dog in a Car

Summer is here, and while we enjoy the warm weather, it’s crucial to remember our furry companions. Dogs have more fur than humans, making them susceptible to heatstroke when left in hot cars for too long. We all want to avoid any emergencies, so let’s dive into the laws and guidelines surrounding this topic to keep our pets safe.

The Law on Leaving Dogs in Cars

Leaving your dog in a hot car is not technically illegal. But remember, if your dog becomes ill or dies as a result of being left in a hot car, you may face consequences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. As dog owners, we are responsible for the well-being of our pets, and leaving them unattended in a hot car contradicts that duty.

What Happens if Someone Smashes Your Car Windows?

While it may seem like the right thing to do, breaking into a hot car to save a dog can lead to a criminal damage charge. However, under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, there’s a lawful excuse to break in if you believe the owner would agree to it. It’s crucial to exercise caution and be prepared to defend yourself in court.

If you find yourself in a situation where you must break a car window, follow these steps:

  1. Place the dog in a shady area and offer small amounts of water.
  2. Use cool, not freezing, water or wet towels to cool the dog.
  3. Seek immediate veterinary assistance.
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Remember, if you spot a distressed dog in a hot car, contact the authorities. Only authorized personnel have the power to forcefully enter a car to assist an animal in distress.

Is It Safe to Leave Your Dog in a Car?

In general, it is considered safe to leave your dog in a car for a maximum of 5-10 minutes when the temperature is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. However, even with open windows or shade, the RSPCA advises against leaving your dog alone in a car on hot days.

We understand that taking our beloved dogs with us in the car can make life more enjoyable. But we must prioritize their safety. If you need to make a quick stop, consider leaving them at home.

Recognizing Signs of Heatstroke

Keep an eye out for these signs of heatstroke in your dog:

  • Excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • Dribbling
  • Vomiting
  • Increased heart rate
  • Collapse or tiredness

If you notice any of these symptoms, call 999 and ask for the police. They have the legal authority to intervene and provide further instructions.

How Hot is Too Hot to Leave Your Dog in a Car?

While there is no universally agreed temperature, it is generally accepted that temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) can be dangerous for dogs. Within just 30 minutes, the temperature inside a car can rise to over 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) on a 70-degree day.

Dogs can experience heat exhaustion when their body temperature reaches 103 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius). Beyond that point, less than 20 minutes in a hot car can potentially be fatal for them.

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Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe in a Car

To ensure your dog’s safety while traveling in a car, consider the following precautions:

  • Park your car in the shade whenever possible.
  • Keep the air-conditioning on and consider using a steering wheel lock.
  • Provide water for your dog in a bowl or dish, but remember that dehydration and heat exhaustion are not the same.
  • Make frequent check-ins on your dog, monitor the temperature inside the car, and take them for a short walk if needed.
  • Leave a note with your contact information and any safety measures you have in place for your dog. This reassures passers-by and lets them know you regularly check on your dog’s well-being.
  • Opt for white interior covers and reflective window shades to minimize heat absorption.
  • Consider a light-colored car to reflect sunlight.

When it comes to leaving your dog in the car, prioritize their safety above all else. While it may be acceptable for short periods in mild weather, it’s always best to leave them at home during hot summer days. Remember, their well-being is in our hands.


Is it illegal to leave your dog in the car in the UK?
It is not explicitly illegal, but leaving dogs in hot cars that result in illness or death can be considered illegal under certain circumstances.

How long can you legally leave a dog alone in the UK?
Legally, there is no specific time limit, but it is advisable to avoid leaving your dog alone in a car.

Can I leave my dog in the car on a cool day?
Yes, you can leave your dog in the car on a cool day. However, be cautious as extreme cold can also be dangerous for them.

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Can my dog sit in the front seat of the car?
It is not illegal for dogs to sit in the front seat of a car. However, ensure the seat is moved back as far as possible, and the passenger-side airbag is deactivated.