Each year, the RSPCA receives over 354,941 calls to our 1300 ANIMAL hotline. Every year there are over 1,000 distress calls about animals (usually dogs) being left in cars in the heat have been received by our Inspectorate.

The Issue

  • Vehicles in the sun get hot at any time of the year.
  • A vehicle can get hot even with the windows down in a cool, shaded position – the clouds and sun can move quickly.
  • Leaving car windows down on an unattended vehicle is illegal and will not prevent a car from reaching extreme temperatures.
  • 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 car 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.

Animal Welfare Alternatives

Do not risk your dog’s life in a hot car. 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:

  • DON’T leave your dog inside a stationary vehicle, even with the windows down (locked or otherwise). Leaving car windows down on an unattended vehicle is illegal and will not prevent a car from reaching extreme temperatures.
  • DON’T leave your dog on the back of a parked utility, especially in the sun.
  • DO 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 reliable person, if you have to leave the animal for a short time.
  • DO ensure sufficient ventilation while the car is moving (air conditioning, windows down safely) and that your dog, or its cage, is adequately restrained.
  • DO ensure your dog has regular access to cool, clean drinking water.

Leaving an animal without appropriate water and shelter is an offence under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 and you may be prosecuted.

Legality

In Queensland there is no specific offence in the Animal Care and Protection Act (in which our Inspectors operate) for leaving a dog in a car, or on the back of a ute. It is however illegal to leave car windows down in an unattended vehicle. 

Whilst there is no legislation surrounding pets being left in hot cars, depending on the outcome, these situations can be offences under Section (17) Breach of Duty of Care, or section (18) Animal Cruelty. The Queensland Government recently enacted a new indictable offence of serious animal cruelty which  carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, and it will target people who intentionally inflict severe pain and suffering upon an animal. In 2013 the Queensland Government also increased the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from two years in prison or a $110,000 fine to three years in prison or a $220,000 fine.

In 2014 RSPCA Queensland was successful in prosecuting for a dog that was to suffer in a hot car.

How YOU Can Help

Most people that leave their pets unattended in a vehicle or on a ute are unaware of the dangers for their pet. The last thing a pet owner would want is to find out that their quick visit to the shops has cost them their pet’s life. 

You can help the RSPCA by spreading the word to family and friends of the dangers of leaving pets unattended in cars. Visit Just Six Minutes website to take the pledge to never leave your best friend behind.

RSPCA Queensland is also rolling out signage in car parks across Queensland highlighting this message.