New Law Protects Citizens who Break into Hot Cars to Rescue Pets

Good news for pets and pet lovers alike- the State of Tennessee has passed a law protecting citizens from penalty who break into cars to save animals trapped inside.  As summer heats up many places around the country- especially the south, encounter sweltering heat and this poses a risk for pets, babies, and the elderly.  Sadly, every year there are more reports of little pets being locked in cars as the owner goes about their errands, erroneously thinking their pet will be OK for a short time.

A dog looks out of a car window driving through London March 25, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS) - RTR3IK8G

A dog looks out of a car window driving through London March 25, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (BRITAIN – Tags: ANIMALS) – RTR3IK8G

However, as any trained veterinarian will tell you, it only takes a few minutes of too-high temperatures to cause a dog to fall into heat stroke.  Even with the windows cracked on an 85 degree day, the temperature within a vehicle can reach 120 degrees in a short time- within a half hour. This can be lethal for an animal left waiting.  For this reason, vigilant citizens will on occasion rescue animals from vehicles when they notice the animal is suffering trapped in the heat.  In the past, breaking into someone else’s car- even to save an animal, was a punishable offense.

Now, a new state law will grant legal protection to citizens who break into cars to save animals.  Tennessee is the first state to enact such a law, though 16 other states do have some kind of protection for animals themselves who are left in hot parked cars.  This new law is an extension of the Good Samaritan Law and not only protects the rescuer from being sued but also from other civil penalties such as damages to the vehicle.  The law was passed shortly after a man from Georgia was arrested in Tennessee for breaking a car window to save a dog that he found in distress.  Shortly after the arrest though, the car owner dropped the charges against the well-intentioned man.

A local veterinarian notes that the hot temperatures are a major risk for animals and that as our pets, it is our duty to protect their lives and well-being.  She said she hopes this law will prompt pet owners to think twice before leaving their beloved pets in a parked car and will help citizens realize how serious the situation can be- and in very little time.

Another Tennessee citizen who was interviewed echoed the spirit of the new law saying that if she witnessed an animal trapped in a hot car in distress, she wouldn’t think twice about finding whatever tool was needed to rescue the animal. After all, vehicles and glass windows can be replaced, but the life of another being cannot.

Though Tennessee is the first state to provide animals will this well-deserved and rightful form of protection, the spreading of this information will surely help many pet owners around the country be well aware of the decisions they make on behalf of their pets- especially during the hot summer months.


Author: Laura W.

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