Fines for hot dogs in cars

Cool ride . . . SPCA Dunedin animal welfare director Jeff Herkt and mastiff-cross dog Daryl, who is available for adoption, take a drive in Opoho this week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

New legislation gives animal welfare inspectors the power to fine people for leaving a dog in a hot vehicle.

SPCA Dunedin animal welfare director Jeff Herkt said inspectors from SPCA and Ministry for Primary Industries could now fine people involved with a dog getting heat-stressed in a vehicle.

Changes to animal welfare regulations gave inspectors the ability to issue fines from the beginning of this month.

Under the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedure) Regulations 2018, if an inspector believed a dog was heat-stressed, three people could be fined $300 each – the vehicle owner, the dog owner and the person in charge of the dog.

Before October, inspectors had power to act under the Animal Welfare Act only if a heat-stressed dog died.

Mr Herkt said if the temperature outside a car was 30degC, the temperature in the car could hit 39degC within five minutes.

“At 39degC the dog is getting really heat-stressed.

“It can stand it to about 41degC but after that it will go downhill very fast.”

Dogs cooled down by panting, which increased the temperature in a car.

A car with a dog inside must be parked in the shade, windows should be lowered at least 2cm and drinking water should be available.

“First up – if you don’t need to bring the dog, don’t bring the dog.”

If anyone had concerns for a dog in a car, they should call police or SPCA on 0800 772-269.

An SPCA inspector would be deployed to assess the situation.

Inspectors would look for signs in the dog including “shade seeking behaviour”, such as hiding under the dashboard or a seat.

Other signs were panting, drooling and hyperventilating.

“One of those three is enough to invoke the infringement process.”

If the dog was badly heat-stressed, the inspectors had the power under the new legislation to break a window to remove it.

If the dog was not in an emergency situation, the inspectors would try to contact the car owner.

People with a dog in a car could leave a note, including their contact details, on their vehicle so anyone with concerns could reach them.

People should call if they had concerns for the welfare of a dog in a car. “We’d rather be safe than sorry.”