Pet safety: hot cars and travelling tips


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Dogs left in hot cars throughout the summer months is an issue that hits the headlines every year.

More often than not it's a disgruntled car owner complaining after having their window smashed by a concerned passerby who spotted a dog locked in without any air.

But do you know what the law is on taking action and smashing another person's car window if you think an animal is suffering in there?

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 states only a local authority inspector or the police are permitted to enter premises, including a vehicle, to help an animal that is, or likely to be, suffering.

Thames Valley Police recently issued the following advice in a Facebook post:

"Firstly it is not advisable to force entry to the vehicle yourself. Your first step should be to call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999 to inform them of the details namely, the condition of the dog, the registration number and location of the car. A dog warden service may also be able to help. They should despatch an inspector/warden to deal with the situation if [they] can. [They] will call the police if it is necessary to break into the car.

"If the matter is getting near life or death for the animal, call the police directly and ask for an estimated time of arrival. If the police don't have time to get there, then you have to decide if you should take action."

The post goes on to quote a section of the Criminal Damage Act 1971 which states you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe the property owner would give consent to destruction or damage to the property if they knew about it and its circumstances.

Basically, this means if you think the pet's owner would be happy to have their car window broken to save the animal if they knew it was in mortal danger, the law could be on your side.

Advice for pet owners in the summer

The RSPCA says a car can become hot very quickly, even when it doesn't feel that warm outside.

"When it's 22 degrees, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour," a spokesman said.

The advice is simple; don't leave animals in cars, conservatories or caravans.

In just a few minutes, even on a cloudy day with the windows open, the temperature can soar dangerously high, the RSPCA states.

In the warmer weather:

  • Provide plenty water for your pet
  • Try the five second rule before taking your pet for a walk on a hot day - put the back of your hand on the pavement, if it's too hot to hold it there for five seconds, it's too hot for your dog's sensitive paws
  • Use pet sunscreen if your pet is in the sun
    Make sure your pet has access to shaded areas

Car travel with a pet

If you're travelling with a pet, here are some helpful tips:

  • Make sure your pet is properly restrained in the car; pets roaming around can be distracting and could cause an accident
  • Make sure you include a litter box in the car if you're making a long journey with a cat
  • Pack plenty of food and water
  • Take regular breaks to allow your pet to get out and stretch its legs and do its business
  • No heads out the window - it can cause your dog an injury
  • Make sure your pet is comfortable


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