As the temperature rises so has the number of complaints involving dogs trapped in parked cars in Tauranga.

Tauranga SPCA inspector Jason Blair said over the last four weeks, complaints had increased and on average it fielded at least half a dozen complaints a week over the summer.

"Even in the shade, with the windows partly open, temperatures can reach into the high 30s and in some cases over 40C which puts pets in danger of heatstroke or even death," he said.

The increase in complaints comes as legislation was this month changed to allow harsher penalties for such incidents.

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"It always surprises us when we people say they love their pets yet some owners are prepared to leave their dog inside their car in full sun, and with the windows wound up."

Since October 1, it has been an offence under the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations to leave your dog in a stationary hot car and it becomes heat stressed.

An offence is committed if the dog displayed signs of "shade-seeking behaviour" as well as excessive panting or excessive drooling or hyperventilation, Blair said.

The owner of the vehicle, the owner of the dog, and the person in charge of the dog left in a hot vehicle can each be liable for a fine $300, he said.

If the complaint warranted further enforcement action people could also face prosecution.

Welcome Bay dog owners Bernie Carroza and Ray Wheeler applauded the SPCA's move to introduce a fine regime for this type of risky behaviour.

"I think it's a very good idea as people often take their dogs everywhere with them but forget to bring water. We often see dogs left in cars in the heat of the day," Carroza said.

"If we're going into town for more than half an hour, we usually leave Kuki at home where she has plenty of food, water and shade. It makes sense to do that if you love your pet."

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SPCA New Zealand communications manager Jessie Gilchrist said she was unable to comment about specific welfare complaints in the rest of the Bay of Plenty region.

However, SPCA was urging anyone who saw a dog suffering in a hot car to call the police or SPCA immediately if they could not find the owner of the vehicle, she said.

Tips to keep your dog safe, cool and happy during summer:

- Exercise your dogs in the early morning or evening on a grassy, shady area.
- Fresh water and adequate shelter is vital; bring dog-friendly water along on walks.
- Put ice cubes in your pet's indoor bowl, and a big frozen block in their outdoor bowl.
- Apply pet-friendly sunblock every three to four hours to areas where there is little or no hair, including tips of ears.

Source: SPCA New Zealand