Several dogs and puppies had to be rescued after being left in vans on a ferry on the hottest day ever recorded in the UK.
In total, 10 canines – some of which were Labradors – were transported between France and the UK in the record-breaking 40C heat on Tuesday.
A transportation company responsible for the dogs has apologised for an "error of judgment" after the puppies were found “half dead” after travelling to Dover, Kent.
Daisybrook Kennels and Transport Services were shipping the animals from Germany through France to England when they were found.
Hannah Mason, from Whitstable, Kent, was travelling on the P&O ferry from Calais with her family on the hour-and-a-half journey when she noticed there was a problem.
She said: “As we were getting back in the car, a lady sprinted past me looking for a member of staff. As I turned around there was a yellow Lab on the floor looking almost dead.
“I thought it was somebody’s pet that had reacted to the heat, but when I went to help another man told me that there were 10 of them in two vans.”
When the circumstances became clear, Mason and several other passengers raced to help the pups, bringing them water and cooling cloths.
The mother-of-three added: “We were quite literally holding their heads up and feeding them with water bottles.
“Some of them couldn’t even lift up their own heads, they were half dead.”
Soon after the discovery was made, P&O staff got involved in the rescue efforts, taking the least affected puppies up to the dog-friendly zone of the ferry, while the captain spoke to the owner of Daisybrook Kennels.
Following an outcry on social media, the owner issued an apology.
He blamed a “combination of events” that delayed the vans from catching a 5am ferry, only managing to get the 5.35pm ship, which was then delayed by another 45 minutes to allow passengers from a cancelled ferry to board.
Both vans were carrying puppies from Europe destined for England, including four litter puppies from Germany.
The owner anonymously wrote: “Yesterday was the worst day of my life. For all that know me and the love for the babies that I travel with, I cannot explain the devastation I feel.
“We parked the two vans up in the shaded area in the ferry hold, which seemed cool and that is where I am guilty of making a huge misjudgment.”
After the dogs were discovered, Defra boarded the ship to take them to the vets, accompanied by the van drivers.
Of the 10, three were extremely ill due to the heat, although all were taken to the vets as a precaution.
Daisybrook Kennels said three were stable, and all should be able to go to their homes on Wednesday.
P&O Ferries added staff did all they could for the dogs while on board the ship.