Image: London police officer cools off
Ben Stansall  /  AFP-Getty Images
A police officer stationed at the prime minister's compound in London cools off Wednesday.
updated 7/2/2009 2:04:57 PM ET 2009-07-02T18:04:57

A heat wave in Britain and other parts of Europe killed two British police dogs left in a cruiser, police said Thursday.

The German shepherds were left in a car Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of police headquarters in Nottingham, about 140 miles north of London. Temperatures topped 84 degrees F that day.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it was investigating the incident under animal welfare legislation. The maximum penalty for causing unnecessary distress to an animal is six months' imprisonment or a 20,000 pound ($33,000) fine, or both.

The dogs' police handler was on duty and had gone inside the building. Police did not say how long the dogs were in the car.

"This is a tragic incident and we value the important work our police dogs carry out on a daily basis," Nottinghamshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Peter Davies said in a statement.

The Dogs Trust, an animal welfare charity, said heat can kill dogs in just 20 minutes, and that temperatures inside cars can top 104 F.

Britain this week saw its warmest spell in three years.

The nation's heat wave alert on Wednesday was raised to level three — the second highest — for the first time since 2006.

Britain's health service said it received more than 300 calls Tuesday from people suffering from heat-related ailments.

Average temperatures for late June and early July are usually around 68 F.

The heat wave should end this weekend and has also affected Belgium, Germany and France.

In Belgium, elephants, bears, penguins and sea otters were getting icy treats at the Antwerp Zoo to help them cope.

Patrick Immens, a keeper at the zoo, says water sprays and ice cube treats are being given regularly to the zoo's inhabitants to cool them off.

Temperatures across Belgium hit just 86 F Thursday and have been around that mark for the past three days.

The zoo's newest arrival, baby Asian elephant Kai-Mook, is also sharing regular water hose downs with other elephants from keepers to keep them cool.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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