Dogs rescued after being left in boiling car in Peterborough supermarket car park

RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs
RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs
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Dog owners are again being warned not to leave their pets in cars after police had to smash the window of a vehicle in a Peterborough supermarket car park.

Officers were called at 12.20pm to Waitrose near Peterborough Railway Station yesterday (Thursday) after concerned shoppers spotted to dogs in a Land Rover without water.

A spokesman for Cambridgeshire police said: “This was reported at 12.21pm at Waitrose in Mayor’s Walk. Two dogs were in a Land Rover and appeared hot with no water. Efforts were made to find the owner but forced entry was made at 12.40pm as the dogs were in distress. One dog required treatment and was taken to the vets. The RSPCA was informed.”

An RSPCA spokesman said they were investigating the incident. The spokesman said the dogs were ‘doing fine.’

A spokesman for the RSPCA said they were braced for a large number of calls in July.

The animal welfare charity - which works alongside 11 other animal charities and organisations to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving pets in hot cars - is predicting a peak in reports of animals suffering in the heat during the month of July - after receiving a huge 2,065 calls in June.

Each year, the RSPCA receives thousands of calls from concerned members of the public reporting animals in hot environments and pets suffering from heat exposure - the majority of which concern dogs left in hot cars. Last year, there were 7,187 reports to the charity’s emergency hotline - with 23% of all those calls coming in just one month.

Every year, the charity sees a surge in calls in July - with call-handlers dealing with more than 1,600 calls in the peak summer month in 2016, 18% more reports than any other month.

The majority of calls relate to dogs - often left in cars, caravans or vans on warm days - but the charity also receives concerns about other animals suffering in the heat, from horses to farm animals to fish.

The plea for pet owners to take extra care in the summer was backed by Jonathan Theobald - a Peterborough resident whose three dogs died when he left them in his car for a number of hours as he went to the gym.

He left his three Staffordshire bull terrier crosses Daisy, Rascal and Mitch in the car for more than four hours.

When he returned to his Volkswagen estate, two of his dogs were already dead of heat exposure and he spent 30 minutes desperately trying to revive Daisy before she finally succumbed to the heat.

Other gym users contacted the police and a vet and officers later found a devastated Mr Theobald at his home address with the dogs still inside the car and called in the RSPCA to investigate.

Mr Theobald 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.”

He added: “The house feels painfully empty, we don’t have dogs now and that’s my fault. My carelessness killed them.”

RSPCA inspector Justin Stubbs, who investigated Daisy, Rascal and Mitch’s deaths, said: “It’s staggering to think that more than 7,000 people called us last year due to concerns about animals in the heat and most of these will have been dogs left in cars.

“Our message has been loud and clear for years: don’t leave dogs alone in parked cars on warm days. And 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.

“What’s also concerning is that the number of incidents of dogs in hot cars is probably much higher as our key advice is to dial 999 if you spot a distressed animal in a vehicle so goodness knows how many calls were made to police on the same issue.

“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…”

In September last year, Mr Theobald was sentenced at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court to an 18-week prison sentence suspended for two years. He was also disqualified from keeping animals for 10 years and ordered to pay £1,900 in fines and costs. He’d previously pleaded guilty to one offence of causing unnecessary suffering to Daisy, Rascal and Mitch by confining the animals in an environment which was detrimental to their well-being and led to their death.