There has been a lot of attention on social media recently, some of it misleading, about a ‘new law’ allowing people to break in to rescue a dog trapped in a hot car. Martin Newton, Solicitor in the Criminal Law department at Hegarty Solicitors, clarifies:
“Ordinarily, if you were to break a car window without the owner’s permission you would be guilty of criminal damage. However, if you had a reasonable belief that a dog was suffering inside the car then you would be in a position to defend a criminal damage allegation on the basis that your actions were with a view to protecting the dog and potentially preventing the commission of the crime of causing unnecessary suffering to the dog.
“Your actions would need to be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances and would depend on a variety of factors but if you had reasonable cause to believe that a dog would continue to suffer, and you had considered alternatives such as looking for the dog’s owners or calling the police, you would not be guilty of a criminal offence if you chose to take action to protect the dog at risk.”