WHEN is it acceptable to break into your neighbour’s house?

Seeing a menagerie of animals left in appalling and cruel conditions is one of the few occasions when it might be considered acceptable, but even then the act is fraught with complications.

Emma Maliska of Didcot won plaudits on Facebook this weekend for smashing a window of her next-door neighbour’s house to get inside and try to help rescue dogs, cats and birds in cages which she said seemed to have been abandoned there in the middle of a heatwave.

Her intentions certainly seem to have been laudable – even if the owner of these animals did not intend to cause them any suffering (and we cannot make any conclusions about his or her intentions or state of mind), one would hope they would support an attempt to help them.

However, we also have agencies which are precisely equipped to respond to concerns about animal welfare, including the police and the RSPCA, both of which Ms Maliska contacted.

It is not clear why she felt she could not wait for officers from those organisations to get to the house.

Certainly, when animals' lives are at stake, there is a degree of urgency, so one can of course understand the feeling that immediate action is needed.

Many of us, if we saw a cat or a dog suffering by the side of the road, obviously injured, would not hesitate to try to get it to a vet who could help.

Ms Maliska took the view that this situation was not any different just because the animals were in someone's house.

Thankfully, on this occasion, there was no dangerous person on the property, she did not injure herself, she was not bitten by any of the animals, and there do not appear to have been any negative repercussions from her decision.

In that, she is lucky.

We deplore any mistreatment of animals, but we would urge anyone concerned about an animal's welfare to always contact the RSPCA and seek advice.