Companion animals confined to vehicles
Ratification Date: 23 Jul 2015
A companion animal should not be confined to a parked or stationary vehicle where it is at risk of developing hyperthermia.
Law enforcement officers or other individuals entrusted with the protection of animals should be supported in their actions to remove affected animals from these situations.
Every year numerous companion animals are found confined to vehicles during hot conditions. Exposure to extremes of temperature may lead to critical hyperthermia or even the death of the animal. This is of major animal welfare concern. Temperatures inside vehicles can rise quickly and to significant levels in moderate and particularly high ambient temperatures, even when the windows are partially open1. This increase in temperature puts the confined animals at very high risk of suffering hyperthermia.
A recent study was performed in California to monitor temperature changes within closed or partially closed vehicles. Temperatures rose by 22 degrees Celsius within sixty minutes on average. Even in cool ambient temperatures, internal temperatures were recorded as high as 47°C. Opening windows to 40mm had no significant effect on the speed of temperature increase or the temperature reached1. Other studies2,3,4 have shown similar results (including a study in Brisbane, Australia5) indicating that temperatures within enclosed vehicles, and those with a small amount of ventilation, rise to levels that will seriously threaten the health of contained animals. It should be noted that animals exposed to the elements on the back of utility trucks may also suffer hyperthermia during hot conditions.
Members of the community charged with protecting the welfare of our companion animals, such as police, animal welfare officers and firefighters, are at times requested to intervene in situations where companion animals are confined to vehicles in situations where they are at risk of hyperthermia. It is important that animals are removed without delay from these situations, even if the owner cannot be found immediately and must be subsequently located.
The AVA supports the education of pet owners and the public at large to the dangers of leaving animals confined to vehicles. Many people are aware of the campaign “dogs die in hot cars”. However most would not realise this is an issue in even relatively mild ambient temperatures (e.g. 22°C) where the windows are partially lowered to provide ventilation, or a potential issue on the back of utility trucks. Educational campaigns by welfare groups, governmental bodies and the AVA should be ongoing to ensure the public remain alerted to this serious risk.
Date of ratification by the AVA Board: 23 July 2015
- McLaren, C., J. Null, and J. Quinn, Heat stress from enclosed vehicles: moderate ambient temperatures cause significant temperature rise in enclosed vehicles. Pediatrics, 2005. 116(1): p. e109-12.
- Gibbs, L.I., D.W. Lawrence, and M.A. Kohn, Heat exposure in an enclosed automobile. J La State Med Soc, 1995. 147(12): p. 545-6.
- Surpure, J.S., Heat-related illness and the automobile. Ann Emerg Med, 1982. 11(5): p. 263-5.
- Roberts, K.B. and E.C. Roberts, The automobile and heat stress. Pediatrics, 1976. 58(1): p. 101-4.
- King, K., K. Negus, and J.C. Vance, Heat stress in motor vehicles: a problem in infancy. Pediatrics, 1981. 68(4): p. 579-82.