Warning as mercury soars

Over 80 reports in Tasmania

Warning as mercury soars Image | RSPCA
As the mercury is set to rise in Tassie this week, with some of our hottest days so far in 2017, RSPCA Tasmania has released disturbing figures affecting pets.

Over 80 calls last year were received about animals being left in cars in the heat, with many of these calls on the RSPCA Animal Cruelty hotline (1300 139 947) about dogs in cars.

RSPCA Tas has pointed out the vehicles in the sun get hot at any time of the year and even with the windows down in a cool, shaded position – the clouds and sun can move quickly, causing the temperature to rise.

It should also be noted that leaving car windows down on an unattended vehicle is actually illegal, but for your pet it will not prevent a car from reaching extreme temperatures.

Other facts worth noting: 

  • Vehicles are made of metal and glass – both heat up quickly and retain heat. Generally speaking, vehicles with larger glass surface areas (e.g. hatchbacks) heat up faster and to higher temperatures than similar-sized sedans.
  • Tray-back utilities can get extremely hot. Dogs travelling on the back of utes must be secured and have access to shade and water – preferably under a canopy.
  • Due to health regulations, dogs cannot enter shopping centres, unless in special circumstances and with prior agreement from management. (In an emergency, however, the cool air of a shopping centre may help save the life of an animal in distress.)
  • Dogs tied up unattended outside a vehicle or building may present a risk to the public and may be at risk themselves (from cruelty, theft and weather conditions). You may also be in breach of local council laws.

There are more alternatives available so you don't risk your dog’s life in a hot vehicle. Leave your dog (and other animals) at home with shade, shelter and access to fresh water.

If, as a last resort (or in an emergency) you need to have your dog with you, the RSPCA advises you must leave your dog secured in a safe area in the shade outside the vehicle with access to water, and ideally under the supervision of a responsible person, if you have to leave the animal for a short time.

Ensure sufficient ventilation while the vehicle is moving (air conditioning, windows down safely) and that your dog, or its cage, is adequately restrained.

Also ensure your dog has regular access to cool, clean drinking water.

Leaving an animal without appropriate hydration and shelter is an offence under the Animal Welfare Act and you may be prosecuted. 

Currently in Tasmania there is no specific offence in the Animal Welfare Act (in which our Inspectors operate) for leaving a dog in a vehicle, or on the back of a ute.

It is however illegal to leave car windows down in an unattended vehicle and whilst there is no legislation surrounding pets being left in hot cars, depending on the outcome, these situations can be offences under Section (7) Management of animals, Section (8) Cruelty to animals, or even Section (9) Aggravated cruelty.

The maximum penalty for serious animal cruelty is a 5 year term of imprisonment, or a fine not exceeding $31,800, or both.

If you come across an animal in distress locked in an unattended vehicle, The RSPCA say "the best course of immediate action is to contact the Tasmania Police radio room on 131444. We would also recommend trying to locate the owner."