Can you legally smash a car window if a dog is inside on a hot day?

Sheep dogs wait in owner's car. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

Sheep dogs wait in owner's car. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA Wire - Credit: PA

As the region prepares for a sweltering few days, with temperatures due to peak at 31C, it is important to remember that hot cars can kill dogs. Here's a look at what you should do if you spot a dog in distress.

This week is set to host the hottest day of the year so far, following on from a warm weekend which saw temperatures rise to 26C in Norfolk after enduring several weeks of heavy rain.

While this is cause for celebration, it's also cause for concern as the heat can prove fatal to dogs which are left in cars while their owners enjoy the sunshine.

A hard-hitting message regarding this issue was posted on the Dogs Trust Facebook page this morning, which included a quote from Francis Rossi of Status Quo, and revealed that 'over a quarter of UK dog owners admit to leaving their dog alone in parked cars, and AA call outs to rescue dogs locked in parked cars have increased by 50pc in past six years.'

They added: 'Under 20 minutes in a hot car can prove fatal to a dog should its body temperature exceed 41C. As the temperature inside the car rises, in just a matter of minutes, the dog's suffering will become evident through excessive panting, whimpering or barking. This will develop into a loss of muscle control and ultimately the kidneys will cease to function, the brain will become irreversibly damaged and the heart will stop.'

The RSPCA have also shared a powerful video on their social media about the issue, tweeting it with the message: 'Don't take the risk with your dog, even if you 'won't be long''.

According to the latest data from the Dogs Trust almost half of us 'mistakenly believe it is ok to leave a dog in a car if counter-measures are taken' such as parking in the shade or opening the car windows, however this is not the case.

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So what can you do if you spot a dog suffering in this way?

Start by assessing the animal's condition and work out whether they are displaying signs of heatstroke such as heavy panting, excessive drooling or vomiting. The dog may also appear drowsy or uncoordinated. If they are exhibiting any of these signs, you should call 999 immediately.

If the police are too far away you may consider taking action in order to free the dog. In this instance you must make sure the police are aware of your intentions and understand that you might have to defend your actions in court. Because of this you should obtain images or record footage of the dog in distress and collect the names and phone numbers of any witnesses in the area.

In terms of the law, the Criminal Damage Act of 1971 states that a person has a lawful excuse to commit damage if 'at the time of the act or acts alleged to constitute the offence he believed that the person or persons whom he believed to be entitled to consent to the destruction of or damage to the property in question had so consented, or would have so consented to it if he or they had known of the destruction or damage and its circumstances'.

In a message on their website, Norfolk Constabulary advises the public not to do this 'unless certain of your ground and are prepared to defend your actions at court in the unlikely event any action was taken.'

• For more information or guidance on animal cruelty contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.