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Dog owners and animal welfare charities have urged gas stations to introduce designated toilets and facilities that allow dogs.
Many of the UK’s largest petrol station providers such as Moto, Extra and Road Chef do not allow dogs on their premises – a policy that is an issue during the summer months for dog owners traveling either alone or with children.
The problem was highlighted by canine and puppy behavior expert Louise Glazebrook, 40, in a post on her Instagram on Thursday, August 5th.
Glazebrook was traveling to London with her children and family dog Pip when she stopped at an extra gas station in Cambridge so her eight-year-old son could use the toilet.
“I parked and looked at the car’s temperature gauge, which said it was 28 degrees, and then found I was alone with the kids,” she told The Independent.
The RSPCA strongly advises against leaving your dog in the car even on a mild warm day, because “at 22 degrees it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees in the car within an hour”.
Glazebrook, feeling as if she had no more options, got out of the car with her children and Pip and went to the entrance of the gas station, where she waited for her son to come in and use the toilet.
“Leaving Pip in the car didn’t even feel like an option, but I felt really uncomfortable with my son walking in alone.
“I essentially had to make choices about whether my dog could die in a hot car and my child’s safety,” she added.
Glazebrook’s Instagram post has received more than 3,000 views since then, with many dog owners sharing their own experiences of the difficulties they encountered while traveling alone with their pet.
On its website, Moto asks people not to leave their pets in the car but to tether them in a safe place.
However, the RSPCA has rejected that advice in light of the 170 percent increase in dog thefts during the pandemic, as recorded by the DogLost charity.
“We don’t recommend that owners leave their pets unattended outside of shops or gas stations, but it’s also incredibly unsafe to leave pets in cars in warm weather as they can overheat very quickly,” a spokesman told The Independent.
“We’d love to see more dog-friendly offerings in locations like gas stations to ensure people can use the facilities and keep their pets safe,” they added.
Glazebrook’s call for services to introduce dog-friendly facilities was also supported by the Dog’s Trust.
A spokesman for the charity told The Independent: “Highway gas stations could put responsible dog owners traveling with their pet in a very difficult position by not allowing dogs on the premises.
Dogs Trust urges that highway rest stops consider opening their outlets to dogs so owners don’t get into a tricky – and potentially dangerous – dilemma.
“We would be delighted to work with such organizations to help them become more dog-friendly. In the meantime, we’d like to encourage owners to plan trips around dog-friendly stops. “
A spokesman for Road chef told The Independent that dogs are not allowed on their sites due to hygiene and safety risks. The only exceptions are small pets, which are in a secure transport box.
“The health and well-being of our customers and our team is our top priority, and we cannot allow pets to endanger this,” it said.
“While the majority of pet owners look after their pets responsibly, there is no way to guarantee that they will be kept under control throughout their visit,” she added.
Roadchef said it recently installed some temporary off-site toilet facilities to accommodate dog owners at its busiest stations like Sedgemoor and Taunton Deane over the summer.
It added, “If a member of the public contacts us and explains their situation prior to their trip, we will do our best to ask a member of the team to look after their dog while they visit our toilets.”
Ken McMeikan, Moto’s CEO, told The Independent that the company hopes to roll out new facilities at its gas stations.
“We became aware of the concerns Louise Glazebrook has raised about her experience at motorway service stations this week and will definitely be working with her to try to introduce new facilities to further improve the experience, especially at Moto locations,” he said .
The Independent asked Extra for a comment.