In Which States is it Illegal to Rescue a Dog from a Hot Car?

It might be only 70 degrees outside, but inside a car with all the windows closed it can reach up to 90 degrees in just 10 minutes. So what should you do if you see a dog, or any other animal, locked inside a hot car? If you’re watching a dog die, you’re probably going to smash that window to save the dog’s life. Whether you will have to pay for that window or not isn’t your priority at this point.

But is it illegal to rescue a dog from a hot car? The answer is, it depends.

Examining the overall picture in relation to dogs trapped in hot cars, we find that only 28 states have explicit laws that either make it illegal to leave an animal locked inside a vehicle or provide immunity for a concerned person who rescues an animal from that vehicle when the animal’s life is in danger. However, these laws vary considerably from state to state and due to the complex nature of the laws some estimates differ.

As such, this is our breakdown of coverage across the states, but it is always best to seek advice from local officials.

These states don’t care about dogs trapped in hot cars

These 22 states have nothing on the books to protect animals trapped in over-heated cars: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. The District of Columbia also has no “hot dog” laws.

Editor’s note: We will update this list as more states pass laws protecting dogs. Please email us at editor@care2team.com if you see a state on here that has passed a “hot car” law. 

little-dog-in-hot-car

Photo Credit: iStock

29 states have laws protecting dogs trapped in hot cars

By our estimates 29 states do have some form of a “hot car” statute in place, but there are many variations on what they cover.

These 19 states have laws that allow specific public officials to break into a vehicle to rescue an animal: Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

While New Jersey and West Virginia make it illegal to leave an animal in a hot car, no one is allowed to actually break into the vehicle and perform a rescue.

Then there are the states where it’s legal for concerned citizens to break into a car and save an animal in danger: Arizona, California, Oregon, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

In 39 states, it’s still illegal for you to rescue a dog from a hot car

Yes, only a handful of states think it’s a good idea for anyone to rescue an animal that might be dying. Shockingly, in the other 39 states it is illegal for you, as a private individual, to break a window in order to rescue a dog from a hot car.

However, the whole picture gets complicated because while not every state has laws relating to animals left in parked vehicles, there are also a number of local ordinances that cover animals left in parked cars. 

So dog owners need to be familiar with both local and state regulations.

Rescuing a dog from a hot car can get you in trouble

When Michael Hammons, a Desert Storm veteran from Athens, Georgia, heard people outside a store saying that there was a dog trapped inside a hot Mustang car, he hurried over. A small crowd had gathered but they were just watching the distressed animal and waiting for the police to arrive.

Hammons wasn’t about to wait. He grabbed the wheel of his wife’s wheelchair and smashed it into the car window, freeing the Pomeranian mix. 

The dog’s owner emerged from the store a few minutes later, furious at what had happened and demanding that the police take action.

Hammons was arrested, but the criminal charges against him were eventually dropped.

By contrast, when a woman in Vacaville, California, left her French bulldog in her hot car on June 6, and the animal died, she was arrested and charged with animal cruelty.

What should you do if you see a dog in a hot car? This article by Care2’s Laura Simpson will help you deal with that awful feeling of dread and give you specific advice on how to take action.

 

Photo Credit: Thinkstock.

110 comments

Richard M
Richard M5 days ago

Anyone who would leave their dog in a hot car doesn’t deserve to have a dog and has earned a smashed window.

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Cindy S
Cindy S11 months ago

I would smash every window

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michelle m
jennifer tabout a year ago

I have smashed many car windows to rescue animals from obvious death.Shame on the USA states who have not implemented laws re leaving an animal in a hot car.

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Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Melania P
Melania P1 years ago

Thank you for posting, sharing as well. So bad those other states do not have laws, shame!

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Helene L
Helene L1 years ago

But of course, protect the car and the imbecile that leave a dog in a hot car and throw the righteous angel of mercy in jail. Those 22 states are in need of serious intelligence and compassion. I would rather go to jail than leave a dog cook alive in a car. But that's me, I have a beating heart in my chest not a rock.

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Maryann S
Maryann S1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Michele B
Michele B1 years ago

In Which States is it Illegal to Rescue a Dog from a Hot Car? 23 states with out common sense! They all need petitions obviously because they have no common sense so lets get the petitions together and everyone sign them!

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Rosemary R
Rosemary Rannes1 years ago

Laura we need to have petitions against every state, 23 in total, who do not care to make it illegal not to rescue a dog locked inside a car in hot temps.
My daughter called the police when she was at the mall and saw a dog alone in car with the windows closed on a very hot day. The police came and the "owner" was given a ticket.
Will the "owner" do this again to her dog? Chances are she will, sad but true!
Perhaps included in a National Animal Abuser Registry there should be a stipulation for animal neglect.

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Past Member
Past Member 1 years ago

I don't care. If I see an animal trapped in a car and in obvious distress, then I would break the damn window and worry about the consequences later. If I get charged with damage to the vehicle, it is worth it to make sure the animal lives. However, I also expect to see the owner charged with animal cruelty.

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