A hard-hitting new campaign has been launched to warn drivers of the dangers of keeping pets in cars during warm weather.
The RSPCA-led initiative, which coincides with today’s Dogs Die in Hot Cars Awareness Day, features an owner who was prosecuted for causing the deaths of his three dogs in an incident last summer.
Jonathan Theobald took part in a promotional video for the campaign after he was given a suspended jail term, and banned from keeping animals for 10 years, last September.
His three pet dogs all died after being left in his car for several hours on a hot day in June last year, while he went to the gym.
He said: “I’ve been prosecuted, I’ve been banned from keeping dogs, [and there’s been] ferocious publicity but really that’s just rubbing salt in the wounds.
“I’m not saying I don’t deserve that but the main hurt is losing the dogs in the first place.
“The house feels painfully empty, we don’t have dogs now and that’s my fault. My carelessness killed them.”
He added: “Be incredibly careful. The weather can change quickly and a car can become lethal, I’ve discovered that the hard way. If in doubt, leave your dogs at home.”
The RSPCA says it received more than 7,000 calls about pets suffering in hot conditions last year, around 1,500 fewer than the previous year.
But the organisation, which is being supported by 11 other animal charities in launching the new campaign, fears the true number of incidents could be much higher.
It says its first advice to people who find an animal in such distress is to contact police in an emergency situation, as its officers do not have the power to enter vehicles.
Inspector Justin Stubbs, from the charity, said: “Our message has been loud and clear for years: don’t leave dogs alone in parked cars on warm days.
“While it’s reassuring that this message seems to be getting through to some people, ultimately we’d like this number to drop to zero.
“Unfortunately, many people seem to be under the impression that it’s okay to leave their dogs in the car for a number of hours while they work out, go shopping or attend an appointment.
“I really hope that people will use this tragic tale as a reminder of the real danger you could be putting your dog in if you leave him in a car on a warm day.
“Nobody believes it will happen to them - Jonathan didn’t think it would happen to him…”
For more information on what to do if you see a dog in a hot car, visit www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/dogs/health/dogsinhotcars.