What to do if you see a pet locked inside a hot car

Little dog left in a car with the windows up
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 NRMA roadside assistance 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? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.