Yellow labradoodle dog jumping into a silver car

Dogs in hot cars

Never leave a dog in a car on a warm day, even for a moment. 'Not long' is too long.

Dogs succumb to heatstroke quickly in hot weather. They cannot sweat in the same way that people can and cannot keep cool as easily as we can. Our cars will get very hot in warm weather and leaving your dog unsupervised can be extremely dangerous.


Although some people think it's safe to leave a pet in a hot car with the air conditioning on, remember that air conditioning can fail and without being in the car you're unable to tell whether it's cool enough for your pet.

What to do if you see a dog in a hot car

If you see a dog left in a hot car who is in distress, official advice is to dial 999 immediately and ask for the police. A dog in distress in a hot car is an emergency and the police will advise you what to do based on the situation.

Depending on the severity of the situation, the police may attend and break into the car to gain access to the dog, or they may advise you to do this.

Things you need to know if you see a dog in a hot car

  • If you decide to break into a car without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and you may need to defend your actions in a court. Always call the police using 999 and tell them what you intend to do and why
  • Take pictures and/or videos of the dog in distress and the names and phone numbers of witnesses.
  • The Criminal Damage Act 1971 provides a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (under section 5(2)(a))

Read more about dogs laws in the UK.

What if the dog in a car isn't distressed

If you're not sure whether a dog is in danger, you can always stay to monitor the situation or try and find the owner eg ask staff to alert the owner over the loudspeaker if you're at a shopping centre or event.

We've listed some worrying signs to look out for below. If you see these, you should take action.

Heatstroke in pets

Animals can suffer fatal heatstroke within minutes. Never leave your dog (or any pet) alone in a car – even with the windows open, and avoid exercising during the heat of the day. 

Signs of heatstroke include:

  • collapse or tiredness
  • excessive panting
  • dribbling
  • increased heart rate

If you suspect your animal is suffering, remove them to a cool place, soak their coat with cool (not freezing) water and contact a vet immediately.


If your pet is normally healthy and isn't elderly, immersing their body in cold water is better still.

Illustration showing three signs of heatstroke (panting and dribbling, collapse or tiredness and increased heart rate) and what to do to take action (place in cool place, wet coat with cool (not freezing) water and call a vet ASAP

#DogsDieInHotCars campaign

Dogs Die in Hot Cars logo. If you see a dog in distress in a hot car, call 999.

Charities across the UK, including us, campaign to make more owners aware of the dangers of leaving dogs in hot cars every year.

To help us spread the word, you can share messages on social media using #DogsDieInHotCars and put up posters in your local area to make people think twice about leaving a dog.

Find campaign posters on RSPCA's website.

— Page last updated 17/08/2022