Thursday 21 July 2016

Can you break the window of a car if there's a pet inside in very hot weather?

In hot weather sometimes a person will see a dog or even a cat inside a car with the windows fully up and it may occur to that person whether they are entitled to break a window of the car to allow air into it thereby quite possibly saving the life of the dog inside.

And it can be a matter of life and death. Even under moderately warm weather it can become unbearably hot for a dog inside a car as the heat builds up.

Whether a person can break the window of a car firstly must depend upon the law in the country where that person lives. I would suspect that the law is similar across many countries in the West and even in other parts of the world.

Technically, breaking the window of a car is criminal damage. It is a crime. The person doing it could be prosecuted and the sentence would be a fine.

However, the person has a defence. He could say that he believed that he would have the consent of the dog's owner under the particular circumstances under which he broke the window. This would be a reasonable assessment provided the dog was in great distress.

If the dog was not in great distress it might be considered unreasonable to break the window. In addition it would be safer and more sensible if the person telephoned the police first as an emergency and then the RSPCA or any other animal welfare organisation which is appropriate in the country concerned.

If the person believes that in calling the police they would take too long to get to the car to release the dog then it could be successfully argued that he had to break the window based on the defense, as mentioned above, that the dog's owner would have given consent.

As you can see is not black and white. There has to be some sensible considerations before breaking the window. If police were involved they would no doubt gain access to the car as would a burglar by releasing the locking mechanism using certain tools. Although on occasions police may well break the window.

Many people would readily break the window of the car and take the risk of prosecution. They would do this because of great concern for the pet's welfare inside the car.

In addition, even if the person breaking the window did so without taking the precautions referred to above, it would be unusual for the car's owner to seek a prosecution in my opinion. Perhaps the worst case scenario might be that you would have to pay for repair of the car although that would be unlikely considering the dog's life might well have been saved.

You can't bring back a dog killed through heat exhaustion in the back of red-hot car but you can replace a car window.


  1. You could probably make a case for the good Samaritan act. I would before breaking a window call the police and if there were available humans send one in to have the most likely business notify on loud speaker.
    We can also question that if you see a dog in obvious distress and do nothing are you also guilty of animal abuse.

    1. I am with you, Eileen. I would tend to act more directly and take a risk than faff around but I would call the police and RSPCA if there was time just to cover my back. I agree that not to act could be construed as animal abuse but I would doubt the courts would see it that way.

      Thanks for commenting on this site. I like this site. It is a subdomain of the main site and it runs very nicely!

    2. It's a sticky subject. I have to live in my own skin. I would like to think anyone would at least contact a store manager or call the police. I commented because this is a such a common thing here in the desert southwest. And it's not evil people. Almost always a loving pet parent makes a horrible judgment call.

    3. It surprises me that people still make these mistakes. The dangers have been very widely publicised. And common sense tells us it is dangerous. Some people are very silly it seems to me.

    4. We have several child deaths every summer related to parents leaving their children in the car seats. IN fact most stores have a warning sigh for parents to double check to make sure they haven't left the baby in the car. It's right up there with the graphic in the public restroom in a business here showing patrons to throw their used toilet paper into the toilet and not the floor. There are some people that just didn't get in line for brains.


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