Let's talk: Should you break into a stranger's car to rescue an animal?

Many of us have been there before… That sick feeling you get when you walk past a car and see a dog locked in the back seat, panting away. What do you do? Tell someone? Leave them there? Wait for the owner? Try to open the door?

We have had record-breaking heat waves in Australia over the past few months, which has made the danger to our pets has been even higher of late.

A car left in the sun can get 30-40°C higher than the outside temperature, making it hard for anything to survive inside.

The US has started to address this issue, with Tennessee recently making it legal to break into a car should an animal be in distress due to heat.

Previously, if someone decided to break into a car to save a suffering animal, they would have faced action in terms of civil liability for any damage caused.

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In Australia, NRMA advises you call 000 immediately and liaise with police about what to do.

In the Prevention of cruelty to Animals Act, section 5 states: “a person in charge of an animal shall not fail at any time (b) where pain is being inflicted upon the animal to take such reasonable steps as are necessary to alleviate the pain”.

In relation to the provision of water, Section 8 (1) states that ‘a person in charge of an animal shall not fail to provide the animal with food, drink or shelter etc’.

These offences can carry fines of $5,500 and up to six months in jail. If a dog dies as a result of being left in a car, charges include $22,500 in fines and two years jail time for the owner.

With that knowledge, we want to know today: should it be legal to rescue an animal from a hot car?