A dog has died after being left in a hot car in Co Fermanagh, despite the efforts of an off-duty police officer who smashed a window to rescue the stricken animal.
The husky was found to have been tied up in the boot of the 4X4 vehicle, in a car park in Enniskillen, on Sunday afternoon.
Although temperatures reached higher than 20C for parts of Northern Ireland over the weekend, it is understood none of the windows had been left open.
A passer-by spotted the dog in distress and called the police.
However, an off-duty officer happened to be passing and smashed a window to get to the husky.
The animal was reported to be fitting as he raced with her to the nearest vet.
Sadly, it was too late and the dog died.
Lesley Moore, a veterinary surgeon at Brook Veterinary Clinic in Enniskillen, told UTV the incident was very distressing for everyone involved – including the devastated owners of the much-loved pet.
“It’s not something that anybody does intentionally,” she said.
“But unfortunately that was the result.”
The vet added that dog owners should be aware of the risks heat can pose to their animals, particularly flatter-faced breeds and those with heavy coats.
“A dog in a car, with the way the temperature rises, can get into trouble very, very quickly – even in as little as 15 minutes,” she said.
What should you do if you come across a dog left in a car on a hot day? Should you smash the window yourself?
Below is advice from the RSPCA on the steps you should take.
What should you do if you find a dog suffering heatstroke in a hot car?
If the dog appears to be showing signs of heatstroke – they are panting heavily, dribbling excessively, are lethargic or uncoordinated, have collapsed or have vomited - then call 999 immediately.
If you believe the dog is in a critical condition, or the police cannot attend immediately, your instinct may be to break into the car to free the dog.
However, if you do decide to do this, without proper justification it could be classed as criminal damage and you could be prosecuted.
If you have made the decision to break into the car, make sure you tell the police why you are going to do this and take photos or video of the dog, and also get the names and contact details of any witnesses.
Under section 5(2)(a) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971, you can legally commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances.
Once the dog is out of the car, what should you do if it is suffering from heatstroke?
Heatstroke can kill dogs, so it is important to try and cool them down as quickly as possible.
Move the dog to a cool, shaded area and call a vet immediately.
Douse the dog with cool water, give them something to drink and try and fan them.
Keep doing this until a vet arrives or the dogs breathing starts to settle. If they begin to shiver, stop straight away.
What should you do if you find a dog trapped in a hot car, but it does not appear to be suffering from heatstroke?
If you believe the dog is in danger, call the police on 999.
If you do not think the dog is in danger, you can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line for advice on 0300 1234 999.
Establish how long the dog has been in the car - a pay-and-display ticket may help.
Take a note of the car’s registration number - if the owner returns, but you feel the situation was dangerous for the dog, you can still report the incident to the police.
If you are at a shop or a venue, then ask them to put a call out to alert the vehicle’s owner.
Stay with the dog to monitor the situation, or get someone else to do so.
Why should dogs not be left alone in hot cars?
Dogs are very susceptible to heatstroke as they cannot sweat, instead they lose heat by panting and through their paw pads and nose.
Even leaving a window open for the dog will not help them, so in hot vehicles dogs cannot cool themselves down.
If it is 22C (72F) outside, the temperature can reach 47C (117F) inside a car within an hour.
How do you keep your dog cool in hot weather?
In order to keep your dog healthy during the hot weather, animal welfare charity the Blue Cross advises keeping a large bowl of water handy for them at all times, providing them with shade, and never leaving them in a hot car.
They also advise walking your dog in the early morning or in the evening, when it is less hot, and taking water for your pet to drink during the walk.
Many dogs enjoy swimming and, so long as you take them somewhere safe, this can be an excellent way for them to cool down.