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Heatwave horror: How to keep people and animals safe in cars

By Paul Connolly

The dramatic rescue of two dogs from the brink of death in a suffocating car has underlined the risks to both humans and animals in the current heatwave.

Police officers were forced to smash the window of a red Kia car in a Yorkshire car park to retrieve two black Labradors left inside the vehicle.

The officers said the temperatures inside the car left them struggling to breathe as they carried out the operation.

An investigation has now been launched by the RSPCA, which is looking after the animals. A prosecution could be the result of the probe.

The drama underlined the dangers that superheated car cabins can posed to animals, children and even adults.

Here’s our guide to keeping you and your passengers safe in the heatwave, which has seen temperatures hit 30 degrees centigrade.

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Neil Worth, road safety and breakdown recovery organisation GEM Roadside Assist, says:  “Hot weather can be tough for your car.  That’s why we encourage you to carry out some basic checks before a long summer journey, and to ensure you keep your eye on the car for any signs and symptoms of trouble.”

GEM advises the following simple tips to assist drivers and their passengers when the weather is hot:

  • Drink plenty of water. Take a good supply of drinking water with you, preferably in a cool bag. Staying hydrated helps keep you in good physical condition during times of high temperature.
  • Check your engine before you set off; in particular make sure your oil and coolant levels are correct.
  • Do not leave children or pets in the car, even for short periods. In hot weather, it’s simply cruel and negligent. Besides, distress, dehydration and heatstroke can occur very quickly.
  • If you do get stuck in traffic, keep an eye on the temperature gauge for signs of overheating. If necessary, find somewhere safe to pull over and let the car cool down for half an hour.
  • If you’re likely to be stationary for a long time, switch off the engine to prevent overheating.

Dogs are at particular risk because they are often left in cars and owners can then forget they’re there.

So concerned was auto manufacturer SKODA about the issue, it teamed up with the RSPCA to support the ‘Dogs Die in Hot Cars’ campaign.

The campaign aims to show families they should never leave a dog alone in a vehicle and always keep windows open, or use air conditioning while driving to keep canines in maximum comfort.

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With temperatures over the last week rising to a sizzling 31 degrees Celsius in places, SKODA points out this can reach an unbearable 60+ degrees Celsius inside vehicles.

A dog can die within minutes in a hot car, even if the owner has ‘just popped to the shop.’

The RSPCA’s Kat Litchfield says:  “We’re delighted that SKODA is involved in the Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign. Dogs are part of the family and leaving them for just a few minutes in a warm car is enough to cause serious suffering or even death.

“Our message has been loud and clear for years: don’t leave dogs alone in parked cars. If you spot a distressed animal in a vehicle, call 999 immediately.”

Here is SKODA/RPCA’s advice to dog owners:

  • Never leave your dog alone in the vehicle so they don’t get anxious or overheat
  • In hot weather, always have the window open when driving to help keep your dogs cool
  • Always carry water with you to keep your dog hydrated
  • Invest in appropriate pet restraints, such as a pet barrier or seat belt, to ensure your dog remains in the back of the car throughout your journey
  • Take regular breaks to provide water for your dog
  • When possible exercise your dog with a short walk during your breaks
  • When the vehicle is moving, don’t let a dog hang its head outside car windows, no matter how much they enjoy it!
  • Before embarking on a long journey, take your dog on short journeys to get them used to travelling in the car
  • Take your dog for a walk/exercise before travelling
  • Make sure there aren’t any loose items that could harm your dog in the boot or on the back seat of your car
  • Bring their favourite blanket or toy to help relax your dog

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