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Police slam ‘fake advice letter’ to break car windows saving dogs trapped in hot cars

A post that’s gone viral on Facebook is giving out the wrong information about breaking car windows to save dogs trapped inside, say police in Salford.

The letter, shared thousands of times in the wake of a record-breaking Salford heatwave, says anyone who sees a distressed dog in a locked car can legally break the window as long as they have photo evidence of the temperature.

It’s believed to have originated in the Oxford area.

It reads: “The police are now saying if you see a dog locked in a car in hot weather taker a picture of dog and car, if a person is with you get them to bring up BBC Weather on their phone so you can screen shot the temp[erature] then brake (sic) window, this way you will not be charged…it gives the police and the RSPCA photo evidence to take the owners to court.”

But officers in Salford say this not the police’s stance and advise people to follow official RSPCA advice instead.

“Each situation is different and we would hope that common sense would prevail,” wrote local officers from GMP Cadishead and Irlam.

“An officer can lawfully smash the window unlike a member of the public.

“It’s a personal choice and we want to remind people that they might be asked to account for their actions depending on the circumstances”.

Their advice is that if you see a distressed dog locked in a hot vehicle please call 999 so an officer can be dispatched who can deal with the situation in a lawful manner.

Under section 5(2)(a) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971, people can have a lawful excuse to commit damage if they believe that the owner of the property  would consent  if they knew the circumstances.

But the post saw many disagree on social media, saying they would take the law into their own hands to potentially save a dog’s life.

One wrote: “Sorry but it takes minutes for a dog to die in such conditions … wasting valuable time by taking photos calling 999 then waiting for officers to be dispatched which could take 15min +”

Another agreed: “Sorry but I’d rather face a charge then a dogs death be on my conscience. The minutes it would take u to respond could be a minute to long. If I see a dog locked in a car in distress I will smash the window no doubt about it.”

The 30°C heat in Salford on Wednesday turned to extreme humidity with crackling thunderstorms with lightning but temperatures are set to stay around the 22°C mark for the rest of the week with showers likely.

PICS/VIDEO: Thunder and lightning split the sky in Salford storm

The RSPCA has issued advice to anyone who spots a dog trapped in a vehicle during the hot weather.

If the dog is in clear distress and showing signs of heatstroke:

  • Dial 999
  • Call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999
  • Take pictures and video of the dog as evidence
  • Get the name and phone number of any witnesses
  • Tell the police if you intend to break the vehicle’s window, and why
  • Only break the window if there is justification and you believe the owner would agree to the damage if they knew the circumstances

If the dog is not showing signs of distress:

  • Try to determine how long the dog has been in the vehicle
  • Note down the vehicle’s registration number
  • If at a supermarket/venue/event, ask staff to make an announcement
  • Call the RSPCA advice line on 0300 1234 999
  • Get someone to stay with the vehicle to monitor the situation in case they begin to show signs of heatstroke
  • Be prepared to dial 999 if the situation does escalate
  • Consider reporting to police, even if the owner returns

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Tom is SalfordOnline.com's News Editor and community co-ordinator.