- Tesla rolled out a new “dog mode” last week, an update which keeps the car air-conditioned to prevent dogs from overheating, as well as displaying a message assuring passers-by that the dog is safe.
- Spokespeople for PETA and the RSPCA told Business Insider that owners shouldn’t assume the feature is foolproof, and that technology can fail.
- They advised that instead of relying on dog mode, owners should leave their pooches at home with plenty of water.
Tesla last week rolled out “dog mode” as part of a software update, designed to keep dogs safe and cool inside the car. However animal welfare group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) warns that the new feature – while well-intentioned – is not the best idea for dog owners.
The idea for dog mode seems to have come about after someone tweeted Tesla CEO Elon Musk with the idea in October.
Can you put a dog mode on the Tesla Model 3. Where the music plays and the ac is on, with a display on screen saying “I’m fine my owner will be right back”?
— Josh Atchley (@nynex) October 19, 2018
The tech mogul, who like to includes quirks in his cars such as the ability to dance to the trans Siberian orchestra, and farting unicorn Easter eggs, simply replied “yes.”
Last week the update was rolled out along with “sentry mode,” which causes the car to blare loud classical music if it senses someone trying to break in.
A Tesla spokeswoman said in an email to Business Insider that dog mode “keeps your dog at a comfortable temperature in your car while letting people passing by know that the owner will be back soon.”
Tesla released a video last Wednesday showing off how dog mode works.
Animal groups have their doubts. When contacted by Business Insider, a spokeswoman for PETA said that while dog mode is a nice idea, she would caution against using it.
“We thank Tesla for thinking about the dogs who lose their lives in cars every single summer, but we caution that the ‘dog mode’ function isn’t foolproof and could provide a false sense of security, as engines and air conditioning can cut out. The notice in the window telling passers-by that everything is all right is also cause for concern, as it might dissuade someone from intervening if the technology does malfunction. The safest way for anyone to protect dogs when temperatures soar is simply to leave them at home – with plenty of water,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) – the UK’s leading animal charity – had similar concerns.
“Technology can fail and it isn’t worth the risk of injury to your pet to put them in this situation, we would advise you leave them at home or with a trusted friend or dog-sitter if you know you are going to be away a longer time.”
In the US 56 pets died inside hot cars in 2018, most of them dogs according to PETA. The RSPCA was unable to provide the exact number, but said that during a heatwave from June 1 to July 24 2018, its emergency hotline received 3,832 calls.
Tesla did not comment directly on PETA and the RSPCA’s stance.
You can find advice for how to respond if you see a dog in a locked car on PETA’s website. If you are based in the UK, the RSPCA’s advice is to to call 999 if you see a dog in distress in a car on a warm day.