Ask NRMA: What should I do if I see a pet locked inside a hot car?


HOT DOG: Temperatures in a car can rise to dangerous levels and can rapidly reach more than double the outside temperature even on mild days. Six minutes is all it takes for a pet to suffer potentially fatal heatstroke.

During hot weather, we rescue over 100 pets from cars per month, with the majority of calls received by the vehicle owner.

You do not need to be a Member to call the NRMA on 13 11 11 in this situation and due to the grave danger involved, we drop everything to respond to these calls which are prioritised. Upon arrival, we provide skills and equipment to enter the vehicle or support emergency services.

The majority of these emergency calls are made by the vehicle custodian, where permission has been given to access the vehicle. If you are not the vehicle custodian (e.g., passer-by), try the obvious solution of checking if any doors are unlocked.

If the vehicle is locked and the animal is clearly distressed or you believe its life is in danger, you can call the NRMA who will send a Patrol Officer to make an assessment of the situation. Emergency services will also be contacted if the situation is said to be life-threatening.

You can also contact the emergency services immediately (000) who may break the window themselves or liaise directly with the NRMA to assist, depending on the circumstances.

While most vehicles can be unlocked by following appropriate lock-out procedures, there will be circumstances when breaking a window will be the most reasonable action.

Criminal Offence 

There are specific provisions in relation to ‘Carriage and Conveyance’ of animals in the Prevention of cruelty to Animals Act. In relation to dogs locked in cars, section 5 would apply: “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.

We encourage all our Members to take the RSPCA Pledge to never leave your dog in a hot car.

Have you ever come across a pet locked inside a vehicle. What did you do? 

81 thoughts on “Ask NRMA: What should I do if I see a pet locked inside a hot car?

  1. I saw a small dog locked in a car at Launceston casino when I went for lunch on Mother’s Day a few years back. It was still there when I came out so went straight back in to get security who called the owners out.

      • Yeah thats how you end up in jail you people need to think about the criminal consequences for doing this to someones car..if a dog os left in there, its hot, in distress, and you have waited on the owner several minutes…then you call the POLICE and don’t try to enforce animal cruelty laws yourself.

        • What are you mother Teresa
          I would break a window with no hesitation the consequences are far lighter than an animal dying

        • Yeah well they don’t think about the criminal consequences they are committing when they leave an innocent dog in the car now are they?

        • Carefully examine the laws …. if the animal IS suffering – I dont know any law enforcement that would press charges – it is the officers choice whether to press charges …. also there are HUGE fines and jail time for cruelty to animals – as a vet nurse I treat humans and animals the same… would you leave a human child in there and await the 8-10 min response from emergency services…. as a vet nurse I can assure heat stress IS AN EXTREMELY DISTRESSING THING TO ACTUALLY WITNESS! you idiot! Break a fking window if it is required!

        • I see this alot at carseldine shopping centre with one owner i told her it was illegal to leave a dog in the car she replied i wasn’t gone long i told her it only takes minutes before irrepairable damage is done. I just reported another. And by the way if the dog is in distress and is immediate danger you can break the window an not be charged

      • Keying the paintwork and letting down tyres is simply malicious damage it will not help the dog inside the car. A brick thrown at the windscreen may also bounce off so be aware. . Ring the Police .

      • That is classified as malicious damage, and you can be charged with an offense that includes being sentenced to prison, plus a hefty fine, and paying for damage. Much better to just break a side window, and get the animal out. Best option is to ring the NRMA, or the appropriate motoring body in the state, to get them there to release the animal.

  2. I have seen this but luckily the owners had left the windows down for the two dogs but then I worried the could jump out the window. But if I did see a dog locked in a car without the windows down I would try to find the owners or call the NRMA to brake into the car. Of course to be really nasty the police could be called to make sure that the owners don’t do this again. The other option would be to call the RSPCA but I don’t think they would come to this.

    • What if the outside temperature is, say, 5 degrees C. There is air in the car. Do you still want to break into the car? What if it is a station wagon and the dog has room to move about in the back and it has water and it is 5 degrees? Or 10 degrees and in shade? Do you still need to have a break in?

          • I agree. Not the same. It is not illegal unless it is animal cruelty. A dog in a hot car isn’t cruel unless it’s left for a length of time with windows up and no water.

          • To mike if you ever saw what happens to a dog in a hot car you wouldn’t be spouting crap. First the dog overheats this happens within minutes then because it can’t cool down the organs begin to shut down the more hooter the dog gets the blood heats and starts cooking the dogs brain the dog starts involuntary convulsing too the point were it can bite its own tongue but yet still gets hotter so literally starts to cook from the inside. Its literally torture

            • yes they DO Alegria!!!!. Life is a life, it’s the arrogance of the disgusting human species with attitudes like this that create the opportunity for cruetly in the first place. We as humans are not ABOVE other species, we are smarter but sadly we don’t exercise that benefit well.

        • Would you leave your kid outside all night in a kennel or locked in the laundry sleeping in a basket? Would you leave your kid tied up outside the shop? Would you let your child ride in the car without a child restraint? Would you tell your kid to sit on the mat on the back door step while you ate your dinner. Would you ask your neighbour to feed and walk your child while you went away… etc. no dogs and children are not treated the same way sorry invalid argument.

  3. On the rare occasion I have left my dog in the car, it has been for the shortest possible time; either for a toilet stop or to replenish my bottled water supply (which I share with my dog). But I always park in a shady spot preferably, place the sunshade screen across the windows and leave all the windows agar. At the same time I don’t take my dog out on extremely hot days.

    Unfortunately in Australia you can’t take dogs (pets) inside places like you can in New York and Paris. On my most recently trip to NYC I saw small dogs at chemists, departments stores and at cafes i.e. all indoors. I was told you can bring you dog in as long as you are carrying your dog or you dog is in a carry bag or stroller.

    • Jen…being from the UK I’m used to being able to take my dogs almost anywhere. I was shocked and saddened by how limited the chances are for you to share time with the furkids when out in Sydney and Australia in general.

      So yes, I too, admit I have left my two chihuahuas in the car when I’ve had no choice. Pit-stops on long drives, pay for fuel, buy some more water…etc. But I always leave all the windows down, the doors unlocked and I’ve even left the engine running so the air-con continues on the 35+ days.

  4. If a pet is left inside a car even with the windows ajar, the temperature outside the car could well be in excess of 30 degrees, therefore the temperature inside the car would likely be a killer.

  5. I’ve waited for a few minutes and I call the police with all the details I don’t care if the windows are open a little bit, it’s not a hot day whatever the reason. I’ve seen dogs drive themselves into a frenzy in a car and their owner is nowhere. I also take photos, just in case.

    • Seems you have way to much time on your hands and want to be in everyone elses business. There are times when its not a crime or cruel to leave dog in car for a few minutes in the right weather and for very short periods of time..calling the police and advocating busting out car windows over your personal zeal is going to land YOU in trouble sooner or later

  6. I keep one of the emergency hammers in my glove box. If I come across the situation of either a child or animal in a car I will not hesitate to use it after waiting 5-10 minutes to see if the vehicle owner arrives. I will notify police of my intended action.

  7. my daughter saw a dog at a car park and called the cops.The cops came and said they will try to locate the owners first, But in the meantime the dogs were in the car at a hot temperature.My daughter told them to break the window but they said no.WHAT A JOKE.

  8. I travel in a small motorhome with my best mate… Smart a miniature Poodle so I often need to leave him in the vehicle when shopping etc.
    The vehicle is well insulated and has a roof vent with inbuilt fan which I leave running. I always fit reflective screens on front cabin windows and leave most windows slightly open I leave him plenty of water. Accordingly he is very comfortable.
    I sure wouldn’t be happy if somebody came along and smashed a window to let him out……

      • And they will charge you lots of money to do it. It’s called boarding & it is pricey. If the vehicle is appropriately set up, like an RV, then it is a totally different situation to a car. Leaving a dog in an RV or caravan isn’t very different to leaving it in a small house!

  9. Once an animal starts to overheat, it’s difficult to undo any permanent damage and very difficult to cool it down in say a car park. Timing is everything. I’d wear the property damage if it meant saving the animal

  10. I came across a Border Collie shut in a car, outside a shop in a small town, on a very hot day. The dog was barking and in obvious distress. I was able to open the driver’s door – the dog immediately jumped out and went into the shop. Enquiries revealed that the shop owner knew the owner of the dog and was angry at his neglect of his animal. She supplied a big bowl of water which the dog lapped up. When the owner returned (from the pub across the road!) I. and the three people with me, let him know in no uncertain terms what we thought of him. We told him he didn’t deserve to own a dog. The dog obviously did not want to get back in the car, despite the owner’s avid coaxing, but eventually he did and a very embarrassed driver took off with his tail between his legs!

  11. If the windows were not open enough for fresh air, it’s best to wait a few minutes, then smash the back passanger window and leave a note on the windscreen telling the owner that; “your pet would have died, you would have potentially received a $22,000 fine & 6 months jail. New wondow cost $450.00. Don’t be a dumbass in future, your pet is not a toy”.

  12. I found a dog in a car with all windows up stinking hot … was unlocked so I took the dog out shopkeepers helped with some water and I rang the police …..stood there for another ten mims (just over 15 all up after I got there ) then owner comes back and says I’i wad only gone 2 mins ‘ I told him id been there 15 and police had been called …..he took dog and left and then police turned up got details of car and went looking for him …..young guy not thinking ……..not excuse enough (NO EXCUSE ) …..was so upsetting to see this animal so distressed !

  13. Anybody who locks a dog in a car on a hot day should also lose their license for 6months as well as a large fine plus demerit points!

  14. My car, you can leave the aircon running. So if I have to run in to the shop I’ll leave the aircon going for the pooch just as if we were driving.
    If I came back to my car and seen you’ve smashed my window, I will be pursuing criminal charges and seekimg compensation.
    Its not illegal to lock your dog in the car, its illegal for it to be in pain due to the heat.

  15. i was in this situation finding a dog locked in a car on a very hot day. I phoned wires who directed me to call the police. I called the police and they said they were too busy to attend and to try Council. Phoned council who said not their job. Poor dog. There was nothing we could do.

  16. If you hear a small dog barking in the back of a car, try to establish first if the dog is in distress and not just saying “Hey you forgot me! Hey, you forgot Me !”. THEN CHECK IF YOU ARE AN IDIOT!. If so ask for help! If not! Assess the situation… I spent at least 5 mins driving around a car park waiting for the perfect space where (even though the trees were small) I could reverse my car under the shade of a tree. 5 mins does not sound like long, but it is. I then placed my dog into the rear of my vehicle, which is a dual cab ute that has a hard canopy on the back(which was in the shade) which to an IDIOT makes the vehicle look similar to station Wagon. There is a window at the front of the canopy which was open, allowing good airflow/supply to my dog. Also none of the windows (3 sides of four) were locked. All could be easily opened even by an IDIOT. There was a bowl of water in the back with my dog. It was not a hot day. It was warm. After getting milk, bread and ham from the supermarket which was 1 of 5 shops that the car park was for. As I was leaving the shop returning to my car I overheard a distressed lady explaining to a staff member that there was a dog locked in a car and he needed to call the police. I Followed the woman and the staff member heading in the direction of my car thinking…I bet she’s talking about my car!. When she realized I was the owner of the car….she started the abuse.! She pointed out that none of the windows of my car were open…and that it was probably very hot in the car, and she was convinced that the constant barking of my dog was a sign of distress. When I calmly explained that the vehicle is a dual cab ute and not a station Wagon , and that the windows next to the seats in the car (that were closed shut) don’t make an ounce of difference to the back of the vehicle which is a completely separate part of the fell on deaf ears. She continued to abuse me and tell me I’m not fit to own a pet. She then yelled that she was 1 minute away from smashing a window to save my dog and I should consider myself lucky that I came back when i did. I asked her which window she would have broken, and she said one of the front ones so the dog was not hurt by broken glass. I then opened the rear window over the tow bar and explained that it was not locked and showed her that it was not hot in there as the rear of t g e car is in the shade and if she had broken the window she chose it would not have made any difference, she again called me an animal abuser and threatened to call the police. After which I had no recourse but to call her an IDIOT and explain to her husband, waiting in their car looking very embarrassed to keep her IDIOT on a leash. I have had dogs for 30 of my 40 years of life. Before you complain or judge…make sure you have an argument that backs you…otherwise you look like an IDIOT!

    • yes Graham, the world is full of ignorant do good morons, my partner almost had her car vandalised by the NRMA even though the car was parked in the shade on a cold day with the windows down.

      • I see this alot at carseldine shopping centre with one owner i told her it was illegal to leave a dog in the car she replied i wasn’t gone long i told her it only takes minutes before irrepairable damage is done. I just reported another. And by the way if the dog is in distress and is immediate danger you can break the window an not be charged

      • Even in the shade on a cold day temps inside the car can be deadly . You and graham can both play everyone as do gooding morons but unless you know and have witness what can happen to a dog in a car. If you did you would never do that to a beloved pet. Why do you think its a huge fine and jail time by memory $8000. If the dog survives $22 000 and up to 7 yrs jail if the dog dies. Do yourself and your girlfriend a favour and actually read up what happens to a dog locked in a car even on a cool day its not pretty and its extemely distressing to witness

  17. Just before last Christmas a dog was locked in a car outside my office. Windows were down but the dog was barking at everyone and it was one of the hottest days we’d had – high 30s. A lady in the pharmacy next door put a call out over their intercom on case the owner was in her shop and we waited about 5 minutes. I then put a note on the windscreen telling the owner I was calling the NRMA and signed my name and where I worked. Whilst my co worker looked up the phone number the vehicle owner returned and drive off before we could get back outside. It was va very stressful situation for everyone! Now I know to call the cops should this happen again. Some people are truly stupid.

  18. for two and a half days two dogs have been locked in a closed up travel trailer with no air but one open window about two inches wide called pleas anthill cops they would not help humane society want help what should I do neded help in pleas anthill california

  19. My partner left her small dog locked in her SUV in nsw, on a cool winters morning, in the shade with the windows slightly down, she returned to find an NRMA person attempting to break into her car. To whom should we have sent the bill for the repairs had she not have returned when she did?

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  21. Pingback: Road tripping with pets | The NRMA Blog

  22. Pingback: Ever accidentally locked your pet in the car? | The NRMA Blog

  23. I travel all over the country with my dog, have done with different dogs for 40 years.Never had one become distressed.I tie up outside if very hot, but leave in car in winter and night times with full water bowl visible and windows down.You can get a plastictype security screen goes on window. I leave my mobile number on large piece cardboard on front and back windscreens, then if any sticky braking do-gooders get involved,whoever can call me without damaging my vehicle. I had her tied outside shopping centre recently,while I went toilet,cool day, with water and moron security guard called RSPCA, no on collar,didn’t call me!! I returned before they got there.Depends on owners I guess… Bit don’t act too hastily.

  24. I travel all over the country with my dog, have done with different dogs for 40 years.Never had one become distressed.I tie up outside if very hot, but leave in car in winter and night times with full water bowl visible and windows down.You can get a plastictype security screen goes in window. I leave my mobile number on large piece cardboard on front and back windscreens, then if any sticky braking do-gooders get involved,whoever can call me without damaging my vehicle. I had her tied outside shopping centre recently,while I went toilet,cool day, with water and moron security guard called RSPCA, phone no on collar,didn’t call me!! I returned before they got there.Depends on owners I guess… But don’t act too hastily.

  25. An individual frequently leaves their dog in their car in my street.
    This dog is locked inside the car for up to 8 hours almost every day.
    I have reported this issue to police, council, & RSPCA, all of whom have done nothing, as they claim the dog is not in danger or distressed.
    This may seem the case at first glance, but if you were locked in a parked car for 8 hours every day, how long would it be before you became traumatized?
    This has been going on for several months, & I find it infuriating that no one seems to be concerned enough to take action.
    I wouldn’t even leave my dog at home alone inside the house with water & the air conditioner running for more than a few hours.

  26. We were on our way through Batemans Bay. It was around 4.30 pm. It was raining and around 19 degrees. My partner was cold, but I insisted the air conditioner remain on because we need to stop, and the dogs would have to be left in the undercover car park. Christmas time, and so very busy and so we were gone around 30 minutes. In that time police were called. I did not have my driver’s license with me, and when I got back to the car I was variously threatened with arrest and harassed. They tried to prevent me getting in my car. Finally when my partner arrived I sat in the car (with windows up to prevent fumes from entering). Also, it is illegal to leave windows down in a car in a public place when unattended, and leaving windows down does not alter the temperature much at all. We were charged, with the rather nasty police officer saying a thousand dollar fine would arrive in the mail shortly. We are animal lovers. This is insane. I am increasingly tired of self righteous twerps who make a big fuss over issues such as these but do nothing about the live animal export trade that is abhorrent.

  27. I came across this today at belconnen shopping mall in Canberra. Two small dogs in a car, the windows were down but it’s over 30 degrees out there. The RSPCA can’t do anything, the police left messages for her while she shopped. 30 minutes later she finally returned to two now very quiet dogs that were panting and drooling – she said she knows dogs can did in cars but she didn’t care. She then proceeded to try and physically attack me until security stood in between us and forced her into her car. Oh and I’m some nosey b, who should mind my own business because she can do what she likes to the dogs and me.

  28. I don’t ever want to see a dog in distress, but I’m wondering why it is OK to leave a dog in a crate (ie. small cage) inside an uninsulated house for as long as you please, but there is this drama around a dog left in a car?

  29. i have witnessed this cruel act numerous times.
    there was a small white terrier distressed in a shopping centre in 40 degree heat. I was telling people, but they went on their way. after 1/2 hour lady come back and yelled at her and she said oh i took her to the groomers, i said if its organs fail you wont be able to do that and she was sheepish. Another man doing shopping left dog in car in sun 40 degrees, told security, gave it water managed to get dog out of car pushed window down.Another young guy was shopping left big dog in car, after 1/2 hour saw him, how could you do that to your dog, you dont deserve it, he was agressive, thought he was going to punch me. recently at a shop guys obv travelling left 2 large dogs in car panting, (i was parked next to his) got the trolley guy to tell the manager, he didnt and didnt care, dogs in distress. guy came back gave him a serve. he laughed. and that recent qld account where the guy went to court and left his dogs in car. one died as his organs shut down. although its 40 degrees outside it could get up to 65-80 degrees in a car. what a horrible way these dogs are treated.

  30. I saw a dog in a car once and luckily the fire brigade drove past, I flagged them down and they popped the door open. The owners came back and were distraught that their dog was missing. I made them listen to me before telling them where the pooch was (inside a clothing shop near the car with a bowl of water and a fan). Turns out poor thing was in there for half an hour. I also told the RSPCA and they gave the owners a talking to.

  31. Yeah, great. Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. What about the police? I’ve twice made calls to police. They attended and did nothing to release the dogs locked in. And you say i cannot call te NRMA if it is NOT my car

  32. Police are stupid, I come across dogs locked in a car, called the police and all they were interested in was my name, my address, my contact details, FFS I kept saying can’t you hear these dogs going cray cray ? Finally owner came out and he left with a few broken windows, dented car and 2 hot dogs

  33. I appreciate that the NRMA are taking the conservative stance with this matter but lets look at the facts that NRMA have given.
    It can take as little as 6 minutes for the animal to reach a state of lethal heat stroke.
    Neither the police or NRMA will respond in that time let alone make an assessment of the situation then act and who knows how long the animal was there before you found it.
    It is a case by case use of common sense – if there is no immediate danger, go through the procedures. Otherwise, get access to the vehicle in the quickest and safest way possible to give aid to the animal.
    Its not rocket science guys…..

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