More States Are Making It Legal To Smash A Car Window To Save A Dog

More States Are Making It Legal To Smash A Car Window To Save A Dog

Duke Harten

The ‘hot car law’ trend is sweeping the country. So why aren’t some states on board?

Litterers. Line cutters. That guy who brings a tuna fish sandwich on your flight. Heathens, all — but none as despicable as the person who leave his or her pet in the car on a sweltering summer day.

Thanks to some modicum of legislative common sense (and, perhaps, our shared cultural admiration for vigilantes like Batman), states have begun to empower ordinary citizens to take the law into their own hands when they see an animal in a dangerously hot car.

Take the new law from Indiana, for instance: Starting July 1, people who “forcibly enter a vehicle” to save an animal are responsible for only half the cost of damages to the vehicle and will be immune from civil or criminal liability from other property damage caused by that forcible entry.

This new rule is a “Good Samaritan” iteration of a “hot car law,” of which there are four types.

1. Limited

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, “While most ‘hot car’ laws apply to ‘animals’ generally, some are limited to certain kinds of animals.” Meaning that in states like Colorado, Maryland and Minnesota, only dogs and cats are protected under these laws. Indiana, Florida and Wisconsin broaden their definition to include “domestic animals,” while Nevada requires that the imprisoned creature fall under the umbrella of a “domesticated companion animal.”

2. Law enforcement only

Twenty states have hot car laws that allow “certain public officials (e.g. law enforcement, humane officers)” to bust a window in the service of Fido or Felix. But the badgeless are impotent to help the furry li’l critters in these states.

3. Illegal, but unenforceable

Some states (lookin’ at you, NJ and WV) have deemed the act of leaving your pooch in a hot car illegal, but they grant nobody — not even law enforcement — the right to intervene if you choose to do so.

4. Good Samaritans

Like our friends in Indiana, ten other states (AZ, CA, CO, FL, MA, OH, OR, TN, VT and WI) have implemented “Good Samaritan” hot car laws, which excuse the behavior of any bleeding heart who’s not in the mood to watch a dog die of heat stroke.

And look, the parameters of these laws are pretty reasonable. They all require that the perp contact law enforcement before (or sometimes after) the break-in, that there is “reasonable belief” that the animal is in danger, and that they stick around after the fact to make sure Old Yeller doesn’t scamper off into the sunset.

Why not?

The question going forward, I suppose, is why not enact laws to protect animals from being left in hot cars in all 50 states (and the District of Columbia, whose own legislation on the issue is conspicuously nonexistent)? The only dissenters I can imagine are people who make a habit of locking animals in a hot car or those so covetous of their own material property that they value it more than they value their pets. And really, who cares about those people? If those people are the ones influencing our legislature, we’ve got bigger problems than some smashed glass and jimmied locks.