Police have said officers will not 'hesitate' to break a car window if they see a dog inside that is suffering as England's heatwave looks set to continue.
The RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and now Kent Police have all issued strongly-worded warnings to owners who may be tempted to leave their pets inside a vehicle, even if they think it will only be for a short time.
In a facebook message posted by Kent Police, which attracted more than 1,000 likes and 500 shares in just a few hours, the force insists it will take action if it sees an animal in distress.
It wrote: "Never leave your dog unattended in a car in warm weather. This appears to be quite commonplace in supermarket car parks, where the owner thinks they will be a matter of minutes but inevitably ends up taking longer.
"Leaving your dog in a car on a hot day can be fatal and officers will not hesitate to break a car window to rescue a dog suffering in the heat."
The British Veterinary Association says no animal should be left in conservatories, caravans or cars when the weather is even remotely warm - warning that temperatures can rise in such environments extremely quickly.
While temperatures in England are currently tipping 30C most days, and only expected to get hotter as we go into next week, the BVA says even just 22C outside can quickly become a roasting 47C inside a vehicle well within an hour which could ultimately result in the death of a pet.
While constabularies are often reported as having swiftly freed dogs left in hot cars, the rules are slightly different for a member of the public who spots a dog alone. But with the RSPCA describing heatstroke in dogs as the 'silent killer' what should you do if you see a dog inside a car on a hot day?
RSPCA and British Veterinary Association advice
With England's heatwave set to continue into next week the RSPCA has reissued its advice on what people should do if they find a dog inside a car.
The first thing, it says, is to assess the dog's condition, and if they're showing any signs of heatstroke dial 999 straight away.
The RSPCA acknowledges, that if the animal's condition is felt to be critical, and police aren't yet on the scene, a person's instinct will be to break the car to free them. It adds: "But please be aware that this could be classed as criminal damage. You may need to defend your actions in court, so please be sure you're doing the right thing.
"Legally, you can commit damage if you believe the car owner would consent to it if they knew the dog was in danger."
If you're sure you need to free the dog using force, says the charity, it recommends first telling the police on the phone what you intend to do and why.
Taking photos and videos of the dog in distress, and finding witnesses to the incident alongside making a note of the names and telephone numbers of anyone else who is watching or helping is also advisable.
The BVA adds: "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."
Helping a dog who appears OK
If the dog doesn't seem in distress or any immediate danger you can leave them in the car, says the RSPCA, and take other remedial action instead.
This might include attempting to work out how long the animal has been inside - perhaps using any pay and display ticket on the vehicle for clues.
It's also advisable to make a note of the car's make and registration because if you feel that the owner has put the dog in danger you can still tell the police.
If you're at a shop, venue or event, the charity also advises asking staff to alert the owner over a loudspeaker. And where possible you, or someone else, should stay with the dog to monitor its condition until the owner returns, and if they get worse be prepared to call 999.
You can, says the RSPCA, also call its cruelty line for advice on 0300 1234 999, but if a dog is in danger alerting the emergency services should always be your first step.
What do I do once the dog is free?
Check if the dog is showing signs of heatstroke or is in distress. If they are, immediately follow our emergency first aid advice. This could mean the difference between life and death for the dog.
How can I help a dog who appears OK?
If the dog doesn't seem in distress, you can leave them in the car and follow these actions.
Work out how long the dog has been in the car. A 'pay and display' ticket could help.
Make a note of the car's registration. If the owner returns but you still feel they'd put the dog in danger, you can tell the police.
If you're at a shop, venue or event, ask staff to alert the owner over the loudspeaker.
Make sure you, or someone else, stays with the dog. Monitor their condition. If they get worse be prepared to call 999.
You can call our cruelty line for advice on 0300 1234 999. But if a dog is in danger, dialing 999 should be your first step.
What to do if you see a dog in a car on a hot day
In an emergency, it is best to dial 999 and report a dog in a hot car to police. The RSPCA may not be able to attend quickly enough and, with no powers of entry, they would need police assistance at such an incident.
If the situation becomes critical and police can’t attend, many people’s instinct is to break into the car to free the dog. But please be aware that, without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage. Make sure you tell the police of your intentions and take photos or footage of the dog as well as names and numbers of witnesses. 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.
Once removed from the car, move the dog to a shaded/cool area and douse him/her with small amounts of room-temperature water. Allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water.
If the dog isn’t displaying signs of heatstroke, establish how long the dog has been in the car and make a note of the registration. Ask a member of staff to make an announcement of the situation over the tannoy, if possible, and get someone to stay with the dog to monitor its condition.
You can call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 for advice but, if a dog is in danger, dialling 999 should always be the first step.
The Dogs Die in Hot Cars campaign coalition was formed in 2015 and includes Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Blue Cross, British Parking Association, British Veterinary Association, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, The Mayhew Animal Home, National Animal Welfare Trust, The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), PDSA, RSPCA, Scottish SPCA, #TeamOtisUK and Wood Green The Animals Charity.