See a Dog in a Hot Car? What to Know Before You Act

As more become aware of the dangers of leaving a dog unattended in a car on a hot day, more people want to take action against it. If you see a dog left in a car on a hot day, your first reaction might be to break the window and get it out. In some cases, that is the correct response, but this should not be your first or only step. Here is what you should know before you take any action to rescue a dog from a hot car.

Evaluate the Situation

Before taking drastic action, it’s essential to take a moment to make sure that it’s truly necessary. Does the dog appear to be in immediate distress? Can you immediately locate the owner? If the dog seems to be safe for now, then it’s best to let the police handle the situation rather than running the risk of lawsuit yourself by breaking into the car. Be aware that while leaving the window down or having the AC running can help decrease the danger to the dog, it still isn’t safe to do this and the police should still be made aware. Leaving a dog unattended in the car in any manner is considered negligence, a form of animal abuse in many states.

Call the Authorities

The first step, if you can’t find the owner, should be to contact the authorities. This can be police or animal control. They will have the authority to remove the dog from the car and possibly file charges against the owner. Even if you believe the dog to be in immediate danger, you must call the police before taking any action to free it. This will alert the police to the dog’s condition and act as evidence in you favor should the event go to court.

Stay by the Car

After calling the police, you need to stay beside the vehicle. Even if you don’t need to break the dog free yourself, the police will need you to identify the car with the dog inside and take your statement for the potential legal case to follow against the owner. While you wait, it’s best to maintain awareness of the dog’s condition. Interact with the dog and watch for signs of exhaustion, heat exhaustion, or the potential loss of consciousness. If the dog’s condition advances to a critical state, then you may need to act and alert the police as you do so.

Learn Your State’s Laws

The law governing a situation like this varies from state to state. If this is an issue that concerns you, you should take the time to read and understand the laws in your state. Some states have laws that allow you to break into a car to remove a suffering animal under certain circumstances while others do not. Even if it is allowed, you may need to hire an automobile accident attorneyto defend the damage you inflicted on the vehicle. 

It is important to be aware of the totality of circumstances before taking action against someone’s vehicle. Don’t assume that the dog needs to be broken free immediately when waiting a few minutes could put it in the hands of professional help. While the health and safety of the dog is important, it is equally important to prevent unnecessary rash action that could put you in legal trouble.

Meghan Belnap / Blogger, Researcher and Freelance Writer

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