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What to Do If You Find a Dog Trapped In a Hot Car

What to Do If You Find a Dog Trapped In a Hot Car

The inside of a parked car can become incredibly hot, even on a comparatively mild day. Sadly many dog owners do not realise this and do not appreciate how quickly the car can heat up. Dogs quickly begin to struggle in hot cars and every year many animals die when trapped in a vehicle.

The RSPCA receives over 6,000 calls each year alerting them to dogs which have been left in cars. Unfortunately, in most situations, they are not permitted to break into vehicles without the police attending the incident. If you see a dog which you think could be in trouble what should you do?

  • Act quickly because dogs can deteriorate rapidly and the hotter it is the swifter their decline will be.
  • Try to establish how long the dog has been trapped in the car. There may be witnesses nearby and a pay and display parking ticket could provide a clue.
  • You should then attempt to locate the owner of the vehicle. If you are in a supermarket or shopping centre car park or at a public event then you should try to get an announcement made over the public address system. Make a note of the car’s registration number together with its exact location before leaving the dog unattended. It is surprising how hard it can be to find a car in a large car park. It can help to identify unusual or brightly coloured vehicles parked nearby if the car park does not have numbered areas. If you have someone with you, then leave them with the dog whilst you search for the owner.
  • If the owners do not return to the car swiftly then contact the police and ask them to attend the vehicle. In most cases they will be willing to attend and will arrive relatively quickly.
  • If the police are unable to come or do not arrive quickly then you should call the RSPCA’s cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 and explain carefully what you have seen and the precise location of the vehicle. They will be able to advise you as to the best course of action.
  • If all else fails and the dog is becoming more distressed then you could break into the car to tend to the animal but where you stand legally if you do this is a grey area. You should certainly speak to the police before attempting to break into the vehicle and explain what you intend to do and why. If you do break in then you could find yourself charged with criminal damage. The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to that damage if they were aware the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971). If you are able to, take pictures of the vehicle and the dog before proceeding and get the contact details of any witnesses. You might need this evidence to support your case in court.

What Happens to The Dog’s Owners?

If a dog suffers or dies as a result of being left in an overly hot car, the owner or carer can be prosecuted for neglect or cruelty under animal welfare laws. A successful prosecution for neglect or cruelty could lead to a custodial sentence, a fine and being banned from keeping animals in the future.


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