Action to take if you see a dog in distress in a car on a warm day:
Establish the dog’s health/condition
- What is the dog doing – are they panting or drooling?
- If the dog is displaying ANY signs of heatstroke – dial 999 immediately.
If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away/unable to attend, many people’s instinct will be to break into the car to free the dog. If you decide to do this, please be aware that, without proper justification, it could be classed as criminal damage and you may need to be prepared to defend your actions in court. Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why, and take images/footage of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident. 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 the damage if they knew the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).
It can be hard to know what to do in this situation. Many reaction is to call the RSPCA, or other welfare organisations, but in an emergency, RSPCA inspectors may not be able to attend quickly enough and – because they have no powers of entry – they would still need police assistance.
Don’t be afraid to dial 999, the police deal with hundreds of such incidents each year.The police will inform the RSPCA of the incident if animal welfare assistance is/may be required.
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If the dog is not displaying symptoms of heatstroke, follow these steps:
- Establish how long the dog has been in the car – is there a ‘pay and display’ ticket showing a start/expiry time?
- Make a note of the registration number of the car. If the owner returns but you still feel the situation was dangerous for the dog, you may wish to report the incident to the police.
- If you’re at a superstore/venue ask the staff to make an announcement on the tannoy public address system to alert the owner of the situation. If possible, get someone to stay with the dog to monitor their condition. If the dog begins to display signs of distress/heatstroke, make sure they’re prepared to dial 999.
- You can also call the RSPCA cruelty line for advice on what to do at any time – 0300 1234 999 – but please be aware that if the situation is dangerous for the dog, dialing 999 should always be the first step.
If you see a dog in distress in a hot car dial 999
This advice has been put together by all charities involved in the Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign.