If you see a dog trapped in a car with the windows down in the middle of the summer heat, what would you do? Smashing the window of a stranger’s car to rescue a dog may seem like the right thing to do, but would that be illegal? Technically, it is illegal. RSPCA Queensland chief inspector Daniel Young said, anyone who came across the same situation at any time of the year should contact the relevant authorities, and said breaking in yourself was not recommended.
“I would certainly discourage people from doing that [breaking the window]. Damaging a vehicle is obviously going to be an offence there,” he told ABC News.
“The issue is if you can’t deem that animal as in distress and you’ve done that out of your goodwill to save that animal, you’re going to get yourself in a lot of hot water I would have thought.
“I would say that people need to contact the relevant authorities and leave it for them to deal with.”
RSPCA has recently called on pet owners to take the pledge to not leave their dogs locked up inside cars as temperatures begin to pick up. They say leaving a dog in a car with the windows down will not prevent it from reaching extreme temperatures, and can kill them in as little as six minutes.
Is it illegal for someone to leave their dogs locked up?
Unfortunately, there is no specific offence under Queensland law for leaving a dog in a car, or on the back of a ute. However, depending on what happens to the dog, it could be an offence under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001. Also, not many people know that leaving the windows down on an unattended vehicle is illegal. For a vehicle to be considered unattended the driver must be more than three metres away from it. Legally, windows must be wound up, however a gap of five centimetres or less is acceptable.
Mr Young said while leaving a pet alone locked up was not an offence, RSPCA was hoping to change that.
“It’s something we’ve been looking at recently about potential amendments to the act to change that,” Mr Young said.
“But the reality is if you leave an animal in the car, particularly this time of year, it will inevitably become an offence because you’re leaving it in living conditions that aren’t appropriate.
“Even though we don’t see a lot of animals dying in hot cars they are still suffering and some of these animals can suffer long-lasting effects.”
What happens if you break the window yourself
According reports, more than 670 pets have been rescued from cars in Queensland, this year. In 2015, a total of 710 animals were rescued, down from 784 in 2014.
An RACQ person said, “It’s a similar process for babies or children locked in cars, we don’t suggest you smash the window, people can injure themselves when they do that,” he said.
“Then if glass is smashed it can injure the child or animal. We can get into almost every car within minutes and safely.”
If anyone came across an animal in a car in distress, call triple-0, a roadside assistance service and do your best to cool the car by getting an umbrella up or hosing it down whilst help turns up.
“The real message is to never leave your pet in the car — even if you’ve cracked the window and will be a couple of minutes, especially in Queensland’s hot weather.”