Wollongong police have warned residents not to leave dogs locked in cars as the Illawarra endures a string of hot days.
Yesterday, the Mercury came across one sad-looking pooch sitting in the passenger seat with only a small gap left in the window for air.
While snapping a photo, the animal's owner appeared, and made sure the dog didn't overheat.
But Wollongong police Inspector Brian Wyver said even cars with all four windows open could become too hot for animals.
He said people found leaving their pets in cars could face criminal penalties under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1977.
"If people notice an animal in distress they should call the local police because they're the best available contact," he said.
"Generally what we do is we contact the NRMA and force entry into the cars ... unless they're completely in distress, then we smash windows and go through that process.
"I think the important thing for people to know is ... someone might just duck into the shop but within a short space of time a car can heat up quite quickly."
RSPCA NSW spokesman Lukas Picton said cars parked in the sun could reach temperatures in excess of 80 degrees, and could remain dangerously hot even if the windows were left slightly open.
"It only takes six minutes for an animal to suffer from heat stress," he said.
"Cars left stationary in the sun become ovens. Ute trays also become extremely hot, so even those working on building sites with their dogs in the back need to pay particular attention to their animals during the hot weather."
If a dog suffers as a result of being left in a car, the maximum penalty is $5500 and the offence can carry a six-month prison sentence.
The penalty becomes much worse if a dog dies as a result of being left in a car, with the owner facing a maximum fine of $22,000 and a two-year prison sentence.
In the past five years, the RSPCA has recorded 16 incidents of dogs being left in hot cars in the Illawarra. Members of the public are also urged to contact RSPCA NSW on 1300 278 3589 if they see a stressed animal left in a car.