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Warning to motorists over dogs in hot cars: what not to do - and the punishments courts can give you

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As temperatures continue to soar across the UK, dog owners are being urged to look out for their four-legged friends during the scorching heatwave.

Highs of 30 degrees C are being predicted for some parts of the country as summer gets into full swing, but its not just us humans who are struggling to cope in the heat.

Leaving your dog in a hot car can be considered a criminal offence

Leaving your dog in a hot car can be considered a criminal offence

With warmer weather comes an increased responsibility to take care of your pet, ensuring their welfare in the summer sun.

Don't leave your dog in a hot car

Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, leaving your dog in a hot car can be considered a criminal offence.

If a dog which has been left alone inside a hot vehicle became ill, or the action resulted in a fatality, the owner could be prosecuted for neglect or cruelty and if convicted, face up to six months in custody and/or a fine of up to £20,000, according to Olliers Motor Law.

The RSPCA advise putting ice cubes in your dog's water bowl, or making tasty ice cube treats, to keep them cool

The RSPCA advise putting ice cubes in your dog's water bowl, or making tasty ice cube treats, to keep them cool

Despite many owners believing their dog will be safe inside the car if the windows are left open, or they choose a spot in the shade, the RSPCA state it is still a highly dangerous situation for the dog.

The animal welfare charity note: "A car can become as hot as an oven very quickly, even when it doesn’t feel that warm - when it’s 22 degrees, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.

"Dogs pant to keep cool, but in hot stuffy cars they are unable to cool themselves down.

"Opening a window or placing a sun-shield on your windscreen won’t keep your dog cool enough and leaving your dog in a hot car may be considered an offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006."

What to do if you see a dog alone in a hot car

Every year many dogs succumb to heat related deaths during the summer, with many fatalities the result of being left in hot cars.

If you see a dog left alone in a vehicle on a warm day, the RSPCA advise taking the following steps:

- Establish the animal's health and condition. If they're displaying any signs of heatstroke dial 999 immediately.

- If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away or 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, this could be classed as criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court.

- Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why.

- Take pictures or videos 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 would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances, according to section 5(2)(a) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971.

- Once removed, if the dog is displaying signs of heatstroke, follow our emergency first aid advice. This could mean the difference between life and death for the dog.

If the dog isn't displaying symptoms of heatstroke:

- Establish 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 the situation was dangerous for the dog, you may still report the incident to the police.

- If you’re at a shop, venue or event, ask the staff to make an announcement to alert the owner of the situation.

- If possible, get someone to stay with the dog to monitor their condition. If they begin to display signs of distress or heatstroke, be prepared to dial 999.

- You can also call our 24-hour cruelty line for advice on 0300 1234 999. However, if the dog is in danger, dialling 999 should always be the first step.