1 Jul 2015

Can you smash a car window to rescue a dog from the heat?

As temperatures reach highs of 35C in what is set to be Britain’s hottest day for nine years, a debate has emerged online prompting the question can you legally break into a hot car to save a dog?

Keith Evans from the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers has addressed the issue on Facebook by looking at Sections 18 and 19 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Mr Evans said under the act “only a local authority inspector or a constable have a power to enter a ‘premises’ for the purpose of assisting an animal that is, or is likely to be, suffering.

Read more: UK has hottest July day on record

Any member of the public who breaks into a vehicle to assist a suffering dog would not be protected by the powers under the AWA 2006, and would no doubt be subject of an investigation for an offence of criminal damage.”

However, there could be a defence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 if the act is considered ‘reasonable’ if there is ‘implied consent’ from the car owner.

“The big word here is ‘reasonable’. If a person just breaks a window, as there is a dog inside, and the dog is obviously fit and well, then their actions might well be deemed unreasonable and they would have committed an offence, Mr Evans added.

“Only in the gravest of circumstances should they take it upon themselves to break into a vehicle, and that they must be prepared to justify their actions as reasonable during any subsequent investigation.”

Heatstroke in dogs

A document by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) states that pet owners should ‘never leave an animal in a vehicle in direct strong sunshine or high temperatures’.

Defra warn that overheating, distress and suffering occurs for pets when temperatures go above 25C for more than a few minutes.

‘The temperature inside a car in full sun on a hot day can quickly rise to double the temperature outside, leading rapidly to distress for any animal in the vehicle.’

Dogs can suffer from heatstroke and die if left untreated. One of the first signs of heatstroke among dogs is heavy panting, barking, whining and producing more saliva than normal.

Defra states that once a dog’s body temperature is raised to the point where their eyes become glassy or appear to be unconscious cells begin to die and seizures, coma and death could follow.

The RSPCA has urged the public to call 999 if they see a dog in a hot car as part of a nationwide campaign which is being supported by police forces across the country.

Britain’s hottest day

The dog debate comes as urgent health warnings have been issued today as temperatures are set to reach 35C in London and up to 33C across the country.

The Met Office have issued a level 2 heatwave warning and confirmed today is the hottest day of the year so far.

Public Health England have warned people to stay out of the sun during the midday heat and said young children, the elderly and those with serious illnesses are at risk in the hot weather. Local authorities are also warning people to take care in the heat.

The heatwave has also had an impact on transport as Network Rail have imposed speeding restrictions on some trains, fearing that metal tracks could buckle under the heat.British Coastguard teams have been handing out water to lorry drivers stuck in huge tailbacks on the M20 in Kent.