A Wagga woman has raised concerns over the protocol of pet safety as temperatures rise into summer.
Shannon Mohr said she heard the howls of two dogs left in the tray of a parked ute in Turvey Park around midday on Thursday, when temperatures reached above 35 degrees.
After a call to Wagga police, local council and the RSPCA, Miss Mohr said she received mixed messages about how to deal with the situation.
"I called the police three times, they said there's nothing they can do and that I needed to call council, which I did but then they also said there's nothing they can do and to call the RSPCA," she said.
"The RSPCA told me the police should be able to help me, so they called them themselves and eventually the police called me back."
Miss Mohr said she was left in limbo on various phone calls for more than an hour, in which time the dogs continued to suffer.
"They were making this really distressing yelping which is what made me go looking in the first place, and eventually I went back to my work nearby to get a bucket of water to give them," she said.
"The dogs were so desperate to cool down they actually tried to hop in the bucket."
The incident sparked concerns over who to call when faced with a situation of an animal in distress, particularly when the owner of the animal or property is not around.
A spokesperson for the Riverina Police District confirmed they received the call about two dogs left on the back of a ute on McLeay Street.
"Police attended the scene and commenced an investigation as the ute had already left," they said.
The spokesperson said drivers who leave an animal unattended in a car and causes harm to the animal could be liable to an offence under the prevention of cruelty to animals act, and contrary to the response Miss Mohr said she received, stated they can be called for help.
"Anyone who sees an animal unattended in a car should call the local council, RSPCA or police in the first instance," they said.
However, a spokesperson for Wagga City Council stated they were not the correct unit to assist in such a situation.
"Council staff are not authorised under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979 to respond to such matters, and are therefore unable to assist in situations of this nature," they said.
"The agencies authorised and responsible for such matters are RSPCA or NSW Police.
"Council understands Police were referring the matter [called in by Miss Mohr] to the RSPCA."
Miss Mohr said while she received a similar response, it was more vague.
"Council actually told me that it would normally be their rangers who deal with these situations, but that they couldn't because all the rangers were currently in a meeting," she said.
"I just thought surely this is more important than a meeting."
After close to an hour waiting, Miss Mohr said the owner of the vehicle approached the car where she was still standing.
"I told him that he can't be doing this to the poor animals, and he got really verbally abusive, he was swearing at me and then actually brushed past me with his ute as he reversed out," she said.
Police reportedly tracked down the vehicle and its owner to issue a warning.
"Following police inquiries, the driver of the vehicle was contacted and issued with a formal warning," the spokesperson said.
Miss Mohr was also reportedly told by police that the attending officer was "unable to leave her hand on the ute tray for more than a few seconds herself".
In response to queries on who to call in emergency situations where an animal is being harmed, the RSPCA stated that it was "Any enforcement agency of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1979, such as RSPCA NSW, the police, or Animal Welfare League".
The RSPCA also warned against the dangers of vehicles in heat.
Ute trays can get dangerously hot in the sun, and dogs travelling on the back of utes can burn their footpads or bodies on a hot metal tray.RSPCA
"We advise people not to drive with their dogs in the tray of the ute if they are going to be exposed to extreme heat. If you own a ute, you should cover the trays with another suitable material, such as blankets or floor mats, and provide a shaded area," they stated.
"Under POCTAA, exposing an animal unreasonably, unnecessarily or unjustifiably to excessive heat is an act of cruelty."
The statement also addressed the issue of leaving a dog inside a locked vehicle.
"Never leave your dog in the car, even with the windows down. Dogs can die in as little as six minutes, as temperatures in a vehicle can rise to dangerous levels, even on mild days," the RSPCA stated.
"Leaving the windows open, parking in the shade and tinting do not help to reduce the inside temperature significantly."
When calling for help, the RSPCA state it is best to provide the licence plate number, make and colour of the car, the location and a description of the person of interest if available.
"If you are able to, stay with the dog until help arrives," they said.
Heading into warmer weather, the RSPCA also offered a checklist of general pet safety tips:
- Heat stress can develop extremely quickly in pets in hot weather. It's important for pet owners to ensure their animals stay cool, safe and hydrated.
- Ensure pets have access to extra shade and water in multiple locations, in case a bowl is knocked over.
- Always walk dogs in the early morning or late evening when it's cooler, avoiding the midday sun when the temperature often peaks.
- Let your pet play in paddling pools filled with water. You can make frozen treats by freezing treats in water.
- If possible, allow your outdoor animals to come inside the house to share the air conditioning or electric fan.
- For birds, you can spray your pet bird with a mist pump spray bottle (only if she likes it!) or install a bird bath. Just make sure she's always supervised.
- If you have a small cat or dog, cool a ceramic tile or oven pan in the fridge or freezer, and put it out for them to lie on.
- Give your pocket pet (rabbit or guinea pig) a little bag of ice wrapped in a small, wet towel.