Why Was This Man Arrested After Saving a Dog From a Hot Car?

Michael Hammons is a hero.

On May 9, the army vet, who served in Desert Storm, heard a dog in distress inside a hot parked car, with no water. Instinctively, he jumped into action. Grabbing the foot rest of his wife’s wheelchair, he smashed open the window of the car, parked in an Athens, Georgia, shopping center, to free the tiny Pomeranian-mix.

When the dog’s owner came back to her car shortly afterwards, she was mad. 

“She said you broke my window, and I said I did. She says why would you do that? I said to save your dog.” reported Hammons.

The state of Georgia has no law to protect animals left in hot, parked cars. (Although the state does allow a person to break a car window if a child is in distress.) Elantra Cunningham, the owner of the dog and the car, took advantage of this and insisted that Hammons be arrested.

Chief Deputy Lee Weems, performing the arrest, said even though he understands why Hammons acted as he did, the officer had to take action.

“We didn’t want to charge him, but he told us he broke the windows and when you have a victim there saying she wants him charged, we had no other choice,” said Chief Weems.

That’s because, along with 33 other states, Georgia has no law against leaving an animal in a parked car.

For his part, Hammons has no regrets, “I knew there’d be consequences, but it didn’t matter,” Hammons told WAGA-TV. ”Glass, they make new glass every day, but they could never replace that dog.”

Praised For Rescuing A Dog From A Hot Car

Rescuing a dog from a hot car usually brings praise from all around, as it should. Last summer, on a scorching hot day in Jackson, Michigan, Alex Soper also rescued a dog in distress by smashing a car window. He could see the golden retriever puppy was overheating and panting in desperation inside a car with the windows firmly shut.

In his case, he was roundly applauded for his actions, even though Michigan is another state with no law against leaving an animal in a hot car.

Just like Hammons, Alex Soper wasn’t sorry for what he did to rescue the animal. He told  WLSN“Given the chance I’d do it again.”

Animal Rights Around The Country

How can it be that it isn’t against the law to leave an animal in a parked car? It turns out that it is illegal in a few states, but not all. Just 16 states (AZ, CA, IL, ME, MD, MN, NC, NV, NH, NJ, NY, ND, RI, SD, VT, and WV) have laws prohibiting leaving an animal in a confined vehicle. These same laws mostly state that the animal must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle, in conditions that mean the animal’s life is in danger. In some cases, these conditions are specified: extreme temperatures, lack of ventilation, failure to provide adequate food or drink.

However, even when a state does not have laws that address animals in parked vehicles, there are numerous local ordinances that make this illegal – check out your local laws on this.

Animal Anti-Cruelty Laws

So what about the other 34 states? I was heartened to discover all 50 states in the US can now punish the worst cases of animal cruelty as a felony. South Dakota was the last state to join the other 49, last year, when Governor Dennis Daugaard signed an animal anti-cruelty statute into law.

“South Dakota now joins the rest of the nation in treating animal cruelty as the serious crime that it is,” said Darci Adams, South Dakota state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “In addition to cracking down on the bloodsport of cockfighting, this new law imposes stricter punishment upon anyone who tortures an animal.”

Thus, in the Texas case of Lopez v. State , the defendant left his dog in his car on a hot day to go and watch a movie in a theater.  He was convicted under the state’s anti-cruelty law.

Michael Hammons, we applaud you.

Update 5/19/15: Great news! Local District Attorney Ken Mauldin has dropped all charges against Michael Hammons, according to local news site 11Alive. Even better, a local Ford dealer has offered to replace the smashed car window for free. Hopefully Hammons can now receive the acclamation he deserves for doing the right thing.

 Thanks to all the Care2 members who took action by signing this petition!

Photo Credit: FOX5 online video

369 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Gina H.
Gina H4 years ago

I applaud anyone who is willing to save the life of an animal in danger because of some brainless, heartless piece of trash like this woman. People like this have no business owning pets and why they do is beyond me. I researched a bit and the sociopath is one Elantra Cunningham, 22. Just punishment would be to lock her up in her car with the windows up on a 90 degree day in the sun for an appropriate time. I hope the dog was taken from her and placed in a safe, caring home.

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Nikki Davey
Nikki D4 years ago

Good result in the end

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Rhonda B.
Rhonda B4 years ago

Petition signed!

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Katie D.
Katie D4 years ago

Bravo Michael Hammons!!! In my books you are a class act and a hero!!! I am so glad the charges were dropped against you!!!

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

What is wrong with this picture? He was arrested for doing the right thing and she was rewarded for doing the wrong thing. Why would Ford replace her windows no charge? Maybe that is the only way to drop the charges. Personally, she should be the one arrested and replace her own darn windows. I hope she recieved a rash of unwanted attention for her actions.

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iveta cer
Iveta C4 years ago

Signed !!! Stupid woman , he should kick her ass for bitching !

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mari s.
Mari S4 years ago

He did the right thing -- thank you! thank you! thank you! All should have your values!

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claudia fischer
claudia f4 years ago

This man is a great person for saving the poor dog of the irresponsability of it¡s owner!
I would have done the same - a car glass can be substitued, an animal¡s life NEVER

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Muriel Servaege
Muriel S4 years ago

He deserves a big THANK YOU.

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