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What you should do if you see a dog locked in a car on a hot day

Brown dog locked in a car with window open

Help a dog locked in a car on a hot day with these tips

© Valeriya_Chistyakova - Shutterstock

Every year, many dogs die in hot cars… so if you see a dog locked in a car, here’s what you can legally do to save the animal.

By Emilie Heyl

Published on the 27/07/2021, 17:00

Rule number 1 for every pet owner: You should never leave your dog locked in a car when it is hot, even for a few minutes! 

Sadly, there are still many incidents of dogs suffering from heatstroke and possibly dying from it because people continue to leave their dogs in their car on a hot day. So, if you come across a dog that finds itself in this situation, here are some tips on the actions you should take and perhaps save the animal’s life.

1. Establish the dog’s health and condition

If the dog in the car isn't showing any signs of heatstroke, you should try to get as much information: 

  • Try to find out how long the dog has been in the car for by looking if there is a “pay and display” ticket. 
  • Then, you should make a note of the car’s registration number. This could be useful if you still feel that the situation is dangerous and need to report the owner of the dog to the police.
  • If you are close to a shop, event, etc. ask someone who works there to make an announcement in order to alert the dog owner.
  • If it’s possible, find someone who could stay with the dog to monitor its condition

Above were some actions you can take if the dog isn’t showing any signs of heatstroke. However, if the animal is displaying any alarming signs, here are the steps you should take.

2. Call the police or fire brigade

Whatever condition the dog is in, call 999 first. The police will be able to assist you and also open the vehicle. Legally, you are not allowed to break the window yourself. However, if the situation is just too critical and you feel like you have to save the dog, please be aware that without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court.

3. Take pictures of the dog locked in a car

If the police or fire brigade are too far or can’t make it and the dog seems in distress (has difficulty breathing, pants heavily, drools, vomits and collapses), you will have to act fast!

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).

Now, in order for this situation not to turn against you, you need to gather evidence. This way, you can prove in the event of a problem that you have acted for the good of the animal. We would advise you to take photos and videos of the dog inside the car in the sun. Also take a picture of the license plate.

4. Gather witnesses

Also in order to defend yourself if the owner of the vehicle decides to file a complaint against you, find witnesses of the scene.

Look for passers-by (ideally 2 people) to witness the situation and ask them for their contact details. You can also call a charity and explain what is happening.

5. Break the window

If, and only if the police haven't come, the dog's life is in danger, and you’ve taken all the necessary evidence, then you can break the glass. Protect yourself as much as possible from shards of glass.

6. Cool the dog down

Once the dog is out of the vehicle, put him straight away in the shade, give him cool water (even if it means pouring water directly into his mouth). Then, gently wrap him in a damp cloth, and take him straight to the vet.

Why you should never leave your dog in a car in the sun

Even if the car is parked in the shade and the windows are a little bit open, you should never leave a dog in a car on a hot day!

For example, if it is 21°C outside, it will be 33°C in the car after only 10 minutes, and 42°C after 20 minutes! If it's 35°C outside, it will be 47°C inside the car in 10 minutes and 56°C after 20 minutes!

Under these conditions, dogs can very quickly suffer from heatstroke and can die in just a few minutes...