HOT TOPIC: Dogs shouldn't be left in cars in this hot weather.
HOT TOPIC: Dogs shouldn't be left in cars in this hot weather. Renee Pilcher

Police break silence on smashing car windows to save pets

WHAT would you do if you saw a distressed dog left in a hot car? Police have shed light on what lengths a bystander can go to save the life of our four-legged friends.

It can take just six minutes for tragedy to strike in the middle of summer when the temperature inside parked vehicles can exceed 50C.

There are common misconceptions of what a member of the public can do for pets in a life-threatening situation.

Bundaberg Police Senior Sergeant Michael McGarry said common practice was to call local police or RSPCA as soon as they can.

"A member of the public can either call us or the RSPCA for a response, certainly we'll get there as quickly as we can depending on the information that we've received mainly around the state of the animal that's in the vehicle," he said.

"We have powers under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act to enter a vehicle in any way reasonably necessary to ensure the safety of that animal."

But what if the animal is in immediate danger and services may not arrive in time?

Sgt McGarry said smashing a vehicle's window to retrieve an animal was a judgment call for members of the public.

"Common sense prevails, and personally I wouldn't watch an animal die, I'm going to do what I can," he said.

"(The owners) can make a complaint and it would be investigated as such but we would look at all the circumstances and make a judgment call as to whether it would be in the public interest to prosecute someone who has caused minor damage to a vehicle to save an animal's life."

The RSCPA's Michael Beatty said people just don't seem to get the picture about pet safety.

"Unfortunately it's an ongoing situation, every year we have dogs in particular that die from heat stress, and a lot of that is from being left in a hot car," Mr Beatty said.

"What people don't seem to still get is that even if you leave the windows down, or partially down, if that car's out in the sun the temperatures can rise dramatically into well over 50C.

"It's not just cars - unfortunately, dogs left in courtyards or backyards where they can't access shade or water, we've had animals die there as well.

"Often if they're tethered they get the tether caught in bushes or bits of furniture and if they can't access shade or water, they're going to die."

Sgt McGarry said responsible pet ownership meant not putting animals in situations that could cause distress.

"Don't put any animal in a locked vehicle for any amount of time in these hot months, it causes significant distress and usually death," he said.

Both men said phone police, RSPCA or RACQ immediately if you witness an animal unsupervised in a vehicle.

"It's a pretty simple message, unfortunately some people forget," Mr Beatty said.

If you are at an incident like this, phone Policelink on 131 444 or RSPCA on 1300 264 625.

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