ALMOST half of people in the West Midlands falsely believe it is safe to leave a dog in a hot car as long as it is parked in the shade or the window is slightly open.

The figures were revealed by the Dogs Trust as part of a campaign working to warn dog owners of the danger of leaving their pets in cars even for a short time.

With summer on the way and hotter weather with it the charity is warning that just 20 minutes in a hot car could prove fatal to a dog and leaving a window open or parking in the shade makes almost no difference to the temperate inside the vehicle.

The research also showed almost a quarter of people in the region admitted to leaving their pets in parked cars while only seven per cent would leave their phone.

The charity’s veterinary director Paula Boyden said: “We claim to be a nation of dog lovers, but it’s shocking how many people are willing to put man’s best friend in serious danger.

“As soon as the car doors are shut the countdown begins - which could potentially end in an agonising death for the dog.

“Our message is simple: don’t leave your dog in a parked car.”

The research also showed calls to the AA to rescue dogs locked in parked cars have increased by 50 per cent in the past six years.

Mark Spowage from the organisation said the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car were “obvious”.

“You just have to touch the dashboard or seats to know how hot the inside of a car can get,” he said.

“But it's not just on warm days when dogs are at risk – vehicles can be death-traps even in cooler temperatures.”

Anyone seeing a dog locked in a parked car should call police on 101 or the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.