The research, by Confused.com, found that more than half of respondents have seen a dog left alone in a car during hot weather, and three quarters did not intervene to help the animal.
A recent three-day social experiment involving a fake dog left alone in a car during 28-degree heat recorded the reactions of passers-by, most of whom did not take any action. Just four people out of hundreds attempted to intervene, trying to open the car or get to the dog through an open window,
The research exposed confusion over what should be done in the situation, with one in six respondents unsure about the best course of action and one in seven not knowing who to contact.
One in four dog owners admitted leaving their dog alone in the car, and most of these said they had done so in hot weather for an average of 16 minutes. A car left in 24 degree heat can reach 24 degrees Celsius in ten minutes and a life-threatening 43 degrees in 30 minutes.
Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, says: “When we hear a heat wave is on the way, it’s exciting news. But heading out for the day with our pets can lead to some very serious consequences.
“Unfortunately, we see devastating stories in the news of dogs being left alone in the car on a hot day, and people should understand that this is extremely dangerous. But for innocent bystanders who want to help, the course of action we take isn’t always clear.
“The law around it is confusing. Are we allowed to break into a car if it’s in the interest of saving an animals life? Should we stand by and wait until the owner returns? Who should we call?”
“While the RSPCA may seem like the best people to call, they do not have the right to enter any vehicle. So, we’ve partnered with them to clear up any confusion with a step-by-step guide on the best course of action to take to save a dog’s life.”
A Scottish SPCA spokesperson said: “It may seem like stating the obvious, but never leave your dog in a hot car. We typically get over 1,000 calls a year about animals being left in hot cars, so it’s still a serious issue in Scotland.
“During warm weather, we usually see a surge in calls to our animal helpline about dogs being left in hot vehicles. Our message is simple – don’t risk it. Whether you are nipping to the shop or going out for a few hours, it is not worth taking the chance.
“It only takes a dog a few minutes to overheat in a car. In direct sunlight, temperatures rise quickly inside a motor and this can cause heatstroke or cardiac arrest and ultimately kill a dog.
“We’ve prosecuted people in the past whose dog has died as a result of being left in a hot car – but we wish we didn’t have to. If you #DontRiskIt, your dog won’t be in danger.”
Here are some tips for caring for a dog during hot weather:
Dogs benefit from being walked early in the morning or late at night as pavements can get very hot and burn their paws. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for paws.
Cooling bandanas, paddling pools or cold/wet blankets are a great way to help a canine keep cool in the heat.
If your pet seems uncomfortable, dipping their feet in to water or spraying a mist of water on to their face can help.