As weather heats up, RSPCA Victoria warns never leave dogs in cars

Each year, the RSPCA receives hundreds of distress calls about animals (usually dogs) left in cars during the hotter months. With the temperature set to rise over the coming weekend, RSPCA Victoria is urging pet owners not to leave their animals unattended in vehicles or on the back of a utility vehicle, even for a short period of time.

This warning comes after a Sydney man was recently charged when his dog died after being allegedly left in a hot car for several hours.

On a 23-degree day, the inside of a car can reach over 40 degrees. In this heat, a pet can die an agonising death in less than six minutes. RSPCA Victoria received 367 reports of animals left in vehicles last financial year, with 158 of these reports during last summer alone.

Dogs are particularly at risk of overheating as they pant to cool down, which also adds to the rising temperature in a vehicle. An animal left in a car or on the back of a ute can suffer extreme stress, organ failure and seizures. If the animal is not immediately removed from this environment it can also slip into a coma and die.

In many cases, even if the animal is still alive when found, the damage can be too extensive to be revived and recover.

Given the urgent action required in these circumstances, members of the public who find a distressed animal locked in a vehicle should contact the police directly on 000. Police officers have the ability to respond to these matters in a time-critical manner and have the authority to break into vehicles if an animal is at risk.

RSPCA Victoria recommends that pet owners leave their animals at home during the warmer months, with the provision of plenty of water and shade. It is critical that the community understand the severe implications of leaving pets in a car, especially as the consequences are often irreversible.

It is an offence under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTAA) to worry, torment or terrify an animal, or to confine an animal where the confinement is likely to cause unreasonable pain or suffering. Anyone who is found guilty of such an act can face fines up to $41,305 or 12-months’ imprisonment or, if the offence results in the death or serious disablement of the animal, fines of up to $82,610 or two years’ imprisonment.

Anyone who has concerns for the welfare of an animal is encouraged to contact RSPCA Victoria on 9224 2222 or at All concerns relating to animals in hot cars should be directed to Victoria Police on triple zero.

Case Study

Late last year a deceased dog was located in a vehicle parked at a Caltex Service Station. CCTV footage subsequently revealed that the vehicle had arrived at the service station around 8am three days earlier. The male driver could clearly be seen, and a German Shepherd cross type dog was alive and visible in the rear seat of the car.

A post-mortem examination indicated the dog had been dead for some time prior to examination, and this was supported by the presence of maggots throughout its coat and mouth. Subsequent checks with the Bureau of Meteorology found that the temperatures in the area from 27th to 30th December 2019 ranged between 38 and 42 degrees Celsius.

During a hearing at Bendigo Magistrates’ Court, the accused plead guilty to three charges, being that he did:

• worry, torment or terrify an animal,

• confine an animal where the confinement caused or was likely to cause unreasonable pain or suffering; and

• commit an act of aggravated cruelty whereby the act of cruelty caused the death of the animal.

He was sentenced, with conviction, to a 12-month community corrections order with supervision, 80 hours of unpaid work, and requirements to undertake various treatment programs. Additionally, he was given a 10-year ban from owning or being the person in charge of any dog, the maximum length of ban for a first offence.

It can take less than six minutes for an animal to die in a hot car, ute or truck


• Do not leave your dog in a vehicle – even when the windows are down dogs can still overheat and die.

• One study found that even on mild days the temperature inside the vehicle rises rapidly to dangerous levels.

• When the ambient temperature is 22°C the temperature inside a car can rise to over 47°C in 60 minutes.

• The high temperatures in the car combined with inadequate ventilation/air flow mean that a dog cannot thermo-regulate leaving them vulnerable to over-heating which can be fatal.

• Veterinary help should be sought as soon as possible if heat stroke is suspected. Heat stress is an emergency. Given the seriousness of this condition, heatstroke is an emergency.

• Initial emergency treatment at home should aim to normalise body temperature. Apply or spray tepid/cool water onto the animal’s fur/skin followed by fanning of the wet fur. Don’t use ice-cold water or ice as this may exacerbate the problem

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