When you’re out for a stroll enjoying the summer weather, you notice a parked car with the window cracked. There’s a bit of a breeze. It’s a nice day. But as you walk past the car, you see a panting pup in the backseat and it seems the dog is suffering from the temperature.
What do you do?
With the recent news of a Georgia man’s arrest post window-smashing pup rescue, that’s a question on many citizens’ minds. How can you help a dog in distress in a locked car on a hot day? Even a mild 70 degrees can turn into a scalding 90 degrees in a car with closed windows after just 10 minutes. Are there laws in place to protect these hot dogs in need?
In many states there are no hard-and-fast rules on the legality of leaving a dog unattended in a vehicle, although offenders can (and frequently do) face animal cruelty charges. But 16 pawsome states do have specific “hot car” laws! The Animal Legal & Historical Center reports that these pupactive states have statutes that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle.
Here are the deets on these states:
1. Arizona : A.R.S. § 13-2910
It is illegal to leave an animal “unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result.”
2. California: Cal. Penal Code § 597.7
It is illegal to “leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”
3. Illinois: 510 ILCS 70/7.1
It is illegal to “confine any animal in a motor vehicle in such a manner that places it in a life or health threatening situation by exposure to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold, without proper ventilation or other protection from such heat or cold.”
4. Maine: 7 MRSA § 4019
The law states a window can be broken if an “animal’s safety, health or well-being appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold or lack of adequate ventilation and the conditions could reasonably be expected to cause extreme suffering or death.”
5. Maryland : MD Code, Transportation § 21-1004.1
It is illegal for a cat or dog to be in a “standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.”
6. Minnesota: M.S.A. § 346.57
A cat or dog cannot be “unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat’s health or safety.”
7. North Carolina: NC ST § 14-363.3
Illegal = “An animal that is confined in a motor vehicle under conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or under other endangering conditions.”
8. Nevada: N.R.S. 574.195
A cat or dog cannot be “unattended in a parked or standing motor vehicle during a period of extreme heat or cold or in any other manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.”
9. New Hampshire: N.H. Rev. Stat. 644:8-aa
“It shall be cruelty to confine an animal in a motor vehicle or other enclosed space in which the temperature is either so high or so low as to cause serious harm to the animal.”
10. New Jersey: N.J.S.A. 4:22-26c
“A living animal or creature [cannot be] unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature.”
11. New York: NY Agri. & Mkts. § 353-d
“A companion animal [cannot be] confined in motor vehicle in extreme heat or cold without proper ventilation or other protection where confinement places companion animal in imminent danger of death or serious injury due to exposure.”
12. North Dakota: NDCC ST 36-21.1-03.1
Illegal = a dog or cat “unattended in a stationary or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the animal’s health or safety.”
13. Rhode Island: 2014-S 2312A
“No owner or person shall confine any animal in a motor vehicle which is done in a manner that places the animal in a life threatening or extreme health threatening situation by exposing it to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold, without proper ventilation or other protection from such heat or cold.”
14. South Dakota: S D C L § 40-1-36
“A cat, dog, or other small animal cannot be unattended in a standing or parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of such animal.”
15. Vermont: 13 V.S.A. § 386
Breaking the law = leaving an animal “unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that would endanger the health or safety of the animal.”
16. West Virginia : W. Va. Code, § 61-8-19E
Criminal behavior = leaving an animal “unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result.”
Even within these details, there are many shades of grey regarding civilian rescue efforts. This is where common law comes into play, and it’s a city by city call if good Samaritan civilians would face criminal charges upon, say, smashing a window to save a pup. So always call 9-1-1 first before taking any further action.
Stay cool and safe!