It's Legal in 15 States to Rescue Dogs Locked in Hot Cars

Posted by Christy Caplan
Dog relaxes in the car.

It's really surprising that only 15 states have enacted laws allowing "any person" to rescue a distressed animal. Indiana became the first state to require the person who forcibly enters a vehicle to rescue an animal to pay half the damages in what's called The Good Samaritan Law.

It's also shocking to think people are still leaving their animals (and children) in hot cars every summer. The states with laws in place to help protect someone who breaks into any car to rescue animals are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin; In recent years, Connecticut, Delaware and Louisiana joined that list. That leaves animals across some states in the South and Southwest like New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, where sweltering summer temperatures climb to over 100 degrees, potentially vulnerable.

If you don't interfere when a dog is in a hot car for a shorter period of time than you'd expect, the dog or dogs could easily die from heatstroke.

Many of these states without laws in place, like Michigan, have a need for statewide legislation to protect dogs in hot cars. This means community support! You always see a spike of vehicle pet deaths in the summer. 

The Oakland Press tells us,

"Michigan is one of 39 states still without a Good Samaritan law allowing people to shatter windows to rescue animals trapped in hot cars

"Without protection against criminal liability, people in Michigan can do nothing more than gather evidence, call 911, and wait for police to arrive on the scene."

Some people will just use a hammer and break into a car to save some pups they see are in trouble. Read this story.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

Have you walked by a parked car on a hot day and wanted to call animal control or better yet break the window? This has happened to me, but I've been worried about the consequences.

Dogs don't sweat out excess body heat. While your dog does have a few sweat glands located in his paws, these do little to help regulate his body temperature. Instead, he does this through rapid, open-mouthed breathing, called panting.

Signs of distress come on quickly!

  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased body temperature
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Only small amounts of urine or none at all
  • Rapid heart rate

Your animal's life is in imminent danger when you start to see these above signs. If you live in one of these 12 states and you see this animal cruelty case unraveling before your eyes, you should break the window and call law enforcement.

How Can You Help Dogs in Hot Cars?

The RSPCA provides tips on what you can do:

  • Call 911. If the dog is in distress or showing any signs of heatstroke and you're unable to find the owner, you should call 911. The police can assist with getting entry to the vehicle. 
  • Should you break the window? Make sure you tell the police what you intend to do and why. Take pictures or videos of the dog and the names and numbers of witnesses to the incident.
  • If the dog is not showing signs of heatstroke, try and track down the owner of the vehicle. Make a note of the car's registration and alert staff if you are at a shop or venue as they can make an announcement to their customers - if possible, make sure someone can stay with the car to monitor the dog's wellbeing. 

Follow along for more tips & tricks at our Wide Open Pets Instagram!

This article was originally published May 1, 2019.

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It's Legal in 15 States to Rescue Dogs Locked in Hot Cars