A pet owner has hit the headlines today after leaving their pooch inside a hot car for several hours while they went to the pub.

The dog was thought to have been inside the vehicle in Southend for three hours before it was rescued by community safety teams, who were left with no choice but to smash a window to access the car.

Despite going against RSPCA advice to not leave your dog in a hot car, the owner will not face any criminal action.

But they could have been charged had the pooch fallen ill or even died having been left too long in the hot car.

If convicted under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, drivers can be jailed for six months and handed an unlimited fine.

What can I do to help a dog in a hot car?

The RSPCA says dog owners should never leave their four-legged friends in a car on a hot day, adding 22c temperatures are closer to 47c in a hot car.

It adds that people should contact police in an emergency – such as a dog in a hot car displaying signs of heatstroke.

The RSPCA website adds: “If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are too far away or unable to attend, many people's instinct will be to break into the car to free the dog.

“If you decide to do this, please be aware that without proper justification, this could be classed as criminal damage and, potentially, you may need to defend your actions in court.

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“Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why.

“Take pictures or videos of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident.”

The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe that the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances (section 5(2)(a) Criminal Damage Act 1971).

What if it’s not an emergency?

The RSPCA says if the dog isn't displaying symptoms of heatstroke, then a person should try to establish how long the dog has been in the car, such as using a 'pay and display' ticket.

They are urged to not leave the dog unattended to ensure its health is monitored closely.

If the dog is found in a car in shop car park, people are advised to ask staff to make an announcement to alert the owner.

They are also urged to make a note of the car registration and report it to police, or the RSPCA’s animal cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.