Colorado Residents Can Finally Rescue Animals in Hot Cars

Colorado residents can finally break into hot cars to rescue distressed animals — under specific circumstances. The state joins a handful ofáother jurisdictions with this legislation, which allows good Samaritans to avoid prosecution for breaking into a vehicle if a dog or cat is in distress.

Laws like this one pass because of coordinated effort from activists who want to reward well-meaning peopleáfor doing the right thing in an emergency. They also raise awareness and serve as a warning for drivers: If you fail to take care of the people and animals in your charge, you may come back to find your window broken.

Curious about how hot it reallyágets inside a closed car, even on a relatively cool day?

Veterinarian Ernie Ward bravely put himself in a closed car on a hot day and documented what happened next. His video shows that leaving an infant, child or animal inside a car they can’t escape “just for a minute” can be fatal.

Here’s what you need to know about the Colorado law, which goes into effect August 9:

Who does it apply to?

In the animal world, thisábilláonlyáapplies to cats and dogs. It doesn’t include other companion animals like rabbits or parrots, or livestock like goats and llamas.

It also covers “at-risk individuals,” such as adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, elderly people and young children.

Unlike in some states, this hot car law isn’t limited to law enforcement, animal welfare officers or other officials — anyone who sees a cat, dog or at-risk person in distress can break into a vehicle to enact a rescue.

Under what circumstances?á

The person or pet in need of rescue needs to be at obvious immediate risk, and the driver cannot be located with reasonable effort. For example, if you’re at a grocery store, ask customer service to use the intercom to page “the driver of the white Honda Civic with the dog in the back seat.”

The vehicle does not belong to law enforcement — yes, even when it’s a police dog in distress. Unfortunately, police dogs die in hot cars more often than you might think.

Before entering a vehicle, a bystander should document the make, model, color, license plate and other identifying details, and contact 911, local law enforcement, animal welfare or the fire department. Consider snapping some photos to illustrate the situation. And if there are bystanders, ask forátheir contact information and permission to film themádescribing what they see.

The person cannot use more force than “reasonably necessary.” Choose the window furthest from the person or animal in distress and use anything with a sharp edge to break the window from the edge, where the glass is weakest.

Are there additional legal requirements?

Yes. After savingáa pet or at-risk person, the rescueráshouldástay by the car until emergency services arrive to take over. That person will likely be asked to make a statement and provide contact information.

If there’s an emergency and someone needs to leave — as for example, to heed a tornado warning — they should write a note and leave it on the car, explaining what happened and why, and where the animal or at-risk person is being taken. If you can, take the victim toáa hospital or vet, social services office or animal shelter. The rescuer should also contact law enforcement to provide details about the situation.

Photo credit: Daniel Ramirez

59 comments

Melania P
Melania Padilla2 months ago

This should be statewide, but this is a good start, thanks for sharing!

SEND
Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE2 months ago

Good for Colorado.

SEND
Jennifer H
Jennifer H2 months ago

Good news from Colorado. Now all they have to do is ban the BSL.

SEND
One Heart i
One Heart inc3 months ago

Thanks!!!

SEND
Carl R
Carl R3 months ago

Thanks!!!

SEND
natasha s
Past Member 3 months ago

Hallelujah Colorado--thanks 4 the kind awakening.

SEND
ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R3 months ago

Well said Kay.
Bravo & thank you, Colorado!

SEND
S J
S J3 months ago

glad for doggy, pls help them everywhere.

SEND
Ruth C
Ruth C3 months ago

Well done Colorado!

SEND
Terri S
Terri S3 months ago

This should be nationwide!!!

SEND