WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following the recent rescue of a dog from a hot car by police officers outside a construction site in Freetown, PETA is issuing an urgent warning about the importance of never leaving animals in hot vehicles.

Since last year, there have been at least 107 hot weather–related animal deaths.

On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes. Dogs, who don't sweat and can cool themselves only by panting, can rapidly succumb to heatstroke, even if a vehicle is parked in the shade with the windows slightly open, which has little to no effect on lowering the temperature inside.

Anyone who leaves an animal to bake to death in a vehicle could face felony cruelty charges.

Law-enforcement officials across the country are also warning people of the dangers of hot weather.

"Every year, we alert people to the danger of leaving children or pets inside cars in the summer," says Police Chief James Kruger Jr., of Oak Brook, Illinois.

"The temperature inside a vehicle climbs approximately 43 degrees in just an hour. The loss of a defenseless animal in this manner is avoidable and should never happen. There is no reason to take your pet out in extreme heat without adequate air conditioning and water."

The Freetown incident prompted Senator Mark Montigny to remind the public of the consequences for leaving an animal in a car during hot temperatures.  Under state law, civilians cannot be held liable for damage caused to the vehicle for rescuing a distressed animal.

A violation of the animal creulty law is punishable by fines up to $500 and severe cruelty cases are subject to prosecution under the state’s animal cruelty law.  A conviction under the state animal cruelty law is subject to up to 7 years in state prison or 2 ½ years in a house of correction and/or a fine up to $5,000.

Montigny says civilians who observe a trapped animal in distress can rescue the animal by following the following steps:

-Make a reasonable effort to locate the vehicle’s owner;

-Call 911 to report the animal in distress;

-Break the window or use the force necessary to free the animal;

-Remain with the animal in a safe location until first responders arrive.

PETA says if you see a dog left alone in a hot car, call local humane authorities or the police. Don't leave the scene until the situation has been resolved.