As you’re walking towards your car on a blistering summer day, something catches your eye. Yep. It’s a dog locked up in a car. Now what? You look around and don’t see anybody that seems to be aware of the situation. Should you call for help? Break into the car yourself? Leave it and hope for the best?
If you’re a dog lover, your first instinct is likely to be to get help of some kind, so you call 911 to report the situation. But, as you wait, you can see the dog is in distress and you get more anxious. The urge to do something can be overwhelming. So you start to think about finding something nearby to help you break the window.
While this is an admirable thought, you need to be aware of the ramifications of such an action. In the past several years, there has been a spike in awareness of dogs being left in cars during hot summer days. Facebook is plastered with good intentioned images and stories reminding people to not do this. What’s scary though are the comments that are left on those posts. More often than not, people say they would break into the car to rescue the dog no matter what the consequences. However, those consequences can be surprising, and sometimes pretty harmful, to the person who was acting as nothing more than a Good Samaritan.
NOTE: At the time of this update (March 2019), laws shown in the image below have not changed. Please check with your local authority for updated information.
What Happens If You Break a Car Window to Save a Dog in a Hot Car?
In the US at the present, a few more than half of the states have some form of “Hot Car” legislation in place. Some states allow only law enforcement officers (and this can include animal wardens) to take action on a vehicle to release a dog trapped inside in hot temperatures. For some of these offices, relief actions can only be executed if the internal temperature is above a certain degree, assuming the officer can get a thermometer inside to check. Other states have laws or provisions that will allow a good Samaritan to take action but, and this is important, there may still be some consequences for that person – though they may not be as serious as those faced in states where no recourse is available.
For states where there is no permission allowed by either law officers or Samaritans, the penalties vary but can include felony counts revolving theft or vandalism, and the possibility of being sued is not protected against.
Keep Informed About Hot Car Laws Before You Act
It’s important to know what is allowed in the state you are in if you encounter such a situation. While anyone who loves dogs does not want to see them suffer or die due to heatstroke brought on by being left in a hot vehicle, considering the ramifications of taking action should be part of the decision in what can be done.
Fortunately, more and more states are putting Hot Car laws into place, making it less likely that anyone will ever have to make a decision about what should be done to rescue a dog left in the heat.
I'm April Bailey, a freelance writer and editor for hire who has been writing about various topics for many years. Most of my early print work was destroyed in a major house fire. Luckily, I was able to pull some copies from an old PC and have posted them here. Other items on this blog reflect my current articles and blog posts written for online publications and copied here so I never lose my work again!