Blessed as we are in the UK with a cool, temperate climate, the flipside is that sudden hot weather can take us by surprise. One of the problems that come with an otherwise welcome heatwave is the plight of pets left in cars when the sun is out.

But if you see an animal locked in a car and in distress due to the heat, can you break in and save it? From a legal standpoint, the answer is: not really.

The RSPCA – and more recently West Mercia Police on their Facebook page – have reminded members of the public that smashing a car window without the owner’s permission could lead to charges and a criminal record.

Sections 18 and 19 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 could also be applied to this issue. It states, "Only a local authority inspector or a constable have a power to enter a 'premises' for the purpose of assisting an animal that is, or is likely to be, suffering.

Any member of the public who breaks into a vehicle to assist a suffering dog would not be protected by the powers under the AWA 2006, and would no doubt be subject of an investigation for an offence of criminal damage."

So it seems that smashing a window to save a pet would be deemed illegal.

However, under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, such an act could be regarded as 'reasonable' if the owner's consent is given.

Otherwise, prevention is the best cure.

According to a document by DEFRA (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs), pets suffer distress when the temperature rises above 25 degrees C for more than a few minutes.

Dogs left in such temperatures can suffer from heatstroke, signs of which include heavy panting, whining, barking and excessive salivating.

Glassy eyes and appearing unconscious could mean brain cells are beginning to die, leading to seizures, coma and potentially death.