As temperatures continue to rise throughout the week, some may find themselves in the stressful situation when they spot a distressed dog inside a hot car.
What do you do? Dogs Trust say just 20 minutes stuck in a vehicle on a boiling hot day can be fatal for many canines.
You want to smash a window to let some air in for the poor animal – but is it legal?
So it’s advisable when possible to try and find the owner or call the RSPCA or police, in the first instance.
But the law does offer protection in certain cases for committing criminal damage in order to save the animal’s life.
Matthew Reynolds, an associate solicitor at Merseyside-based Kirwans law firm, said: “If the dog is not showing any signs of heatstroke, such as excessive panting, whimpering or barking, then try and find the driver, for example, by asking supermarket staff to make an announcement.
“If you do leave the vehicle then try and get someone to stay with the dog to keep an eye on it and, if you can’t locate the owner, consider calling the RSPCA 24-hour cruelty line 0300 1234 999.
“If the dog is showing signs of heatstroke then you should call 999 immediately.”
‘You may choose to take the dog out of an unlocked vehicle if the dog’s situation is critical”.
Mr Reynolds, a higher court advocate, continued: “You may choose to take the dog out of an unlocked vehicle if the dog’s situation is critical and the police are too far away or unavailable.
“Remember, a dog is someone’s property and you could face an accusation of theft, but it is hard to see how rescuing a dog in these circumstances could lead to you being successfully prosecuted on that basis.
“It would be wise to arrange to pass the animal to the police or RSPCA if the owner could not be located.”
Is breaking into a hot car to save a dog’s life illegal?
Explaining the law behind the decision to smash a window, Mr Reynolds said: “Although smashing a window to rescue a distressed dog in a locked vehicle could lead to a charge of criminal damage, you would have a lawful excuse to smash the window if you believed that the owner of the vehicle would have consented to the damage, had they been aware of the circumstances.
“It would also be a defence to a charge of criminal damage if you smashed the window to protect the owner’s property (the dog) in the belief that the dog was in need of immediate protection and that smashing the window was reasonable in the circumstances to achieve that aim.
“If you do remove a dog from a car, tell the police what you intend to do and why.
“It would also be a good idea to take photographs or video of the dog and contact details of any witnesses to the incident.”