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 of other 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 people for 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 really gets 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, this bill only applies 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? 

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 for their contact information and permission to film them describing 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 saving a pet or at-risk person, the rescuer should stay 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 to a 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


Lesa D
Lesa D1 months ago

thank you, Colorado!!!

thank you, S.E. ...

Melania P
Melania Padilla4 months ago

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

Margie FOURIE4 months ago

Good for Colorado.

Jennifer H
Jennifer H4 months ago

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

One Heart i
One Heart inc5 months ago


Carl R
Carl R5 months ago


natasha s
Past Member 5 months ago

Hallelujah Colorado--thanks 4 the kind awakening.

ANA MARIJA R5 months ago

Well said Kay.
Bravo & thank you, Colorado!

LKoSl J5 months ago

glad for doggy, pls help them everywhere.

Ruth C
Ruth C5 months ago

Well done Colorado!