POLICE have issued a warning about leaving dogs in hot cars during the approaching hot weather.

With highs of up to 31C in Worcester today, dog owners have been reminded by the police that they are legally responsible for the health and wellbeing of their pets.

PC John Hand, of the Kempsey and Alfrick safer neighbourhood team, said: "It is not illegal as such to leave a dog in a hot car, but owners are legally responsible for their pet’s health and welfare.

"If a dog became ill or sadly died due to being left in a hot car, owners could be charged with the offence of animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

"This could lead to a prison sentence and/or a fine."

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What to do if you come across a dog in distress?

According to West Mercia Police, you should always make an assessment of the situation to see if the dog is showing signs of distress or heatstroke. If they are, dial 999 and ask for assistance.

If the situation becomes critical for the dog and the police are still 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, without proper justification, it could be classed as criminal damage and you may need to be prepared to defend your actions in court.

West Mercia Police advise you to tell them what you intend to do and why, and take pictures and/or footage of the dog and the names and numbers of any 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 would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances.

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Once the dog is removed from the car, you need to call a vet immediately.

While you wait for advice, it is advised to move the dog to a shaded or cool area and pour small amounts of cool water over their body, but not ice water as this could put the dog into shock.

You should also allow the dog to drink small amounts of cool water and take them to the nearest vet as a matter of urgency, even if they seem to have recovered.