Freeing dog in hot car could land you in court, warns PSNI

The PSNI in Craigavon has published advice on dealing with dogs locked in hot cars
The PSNI in Craigavon has published advice on dealing with dogs locked in hot cars

A warning to anyone tempted to free a dog from a hot car has been issued by police officers in Co Armagh.

The main thrust of the Craigavon PSNI advice is to think before you act – to avoid being prosecuted for criminal damage.

In a Facebook message posted on Sunday, the police provide a list of helpful tips and things to consider before smashing a window, and what you can do to minimise the risk of landing yourself in court or with a hefty repair bill.

The advice includes: taking photographs of the vehicle to show if it is in full sun or shade and whether the windows are open or closed: taking photos of the dog to support evidence of the animal suffering; taking a screen shot of a weather app to show the air temperature at that time.

The RSPCA has published its own advice on the dangers of leaving pets in cars in hot temperatures, highlighting that a 22C temperature outside can cause an unbearable 47C inside a locked vehicle.

Under the heading ‘To smash, or not to smash,’ the PSNI message states: “Leaving a dog to overheat could easily constitute unnecessary suffering. The issue is proving it. We’re not vets. How quickly can we get a dog to a vet for an expert view?

“With major cases, that’s no issue, but the majority of these aren’t. It’s someone turning up assuming it’s been there for hours, and it’s been a couple of minutes.

“Could the dog be suffering? Absolutely. If we smash a window, take it out and to the vets, would it still be? Possibly, but not likely.”

It goes on to say: “Now, criminal damage. Any damage caused without permission of the owner could be criminal damage UNLESS (this is the important bit) the person causing the damage believed that the owner would allow them to had they known the circumstances (to prevent the dog from suffering).

“If they AREN’T happy with that, then loop back to the “causing unnecessary suffering”. In short, if a dog is genuinely suffering, the law COULD benefit the bystander whichever way it goes. In ANY case, it’s best to phone us. Better us explain a smashed window than you.

“Best advice ... avoid this situation happening at all by not leaving dogs in hot cars EVER!! Leave them at home!”