What is my liability if I rescue a dog from a locked car on a hot day?
The question is really this: “Just how much would you be willing to get involved if you saw a dog dying of heat stroke?”
In many jurisdictions, only individuals of specific professions can use “reasonable” force to rescue a dog. These include:
• A law enforcement officer
• A public safety employee of the state or of a local governing body
• An animal control officer under the jurisdiction of the State or a local governing body
• An officer of a society or association, incorporated under the laws of a particular state for the prevention of cruelty to animals, and authorized to make arrests under certain provisions
• A volunteer or professional of a fire and rescue service
Otherwise, you may be held for damages, especially if the owner was not found liable, or, even harmed by the pet.
It is best to know the laws of your municipality. Your local ASPCA or humane society might be able to advise you.
People should know better, but they don’t. Temperatures in cars can rise very quickly and, what may be 85 degrees outside, can turn into over 100 in a car within minutes.
If you do see a dog locked in a sweltering car, the first thing you should do is to call local law enforcement and animal protection agencies, such as your local ASPCA or humane society.
If it is in a store parking lot, note of the car model, license plate number and ask the store’s manager to make an announcement.
What do you do if you feel that officials aren’t showing up quickly enough, the owner is ignoring the announcement, or the dog’s life is in peril? Well, we’ve all heard the stories of people smashing car windows to free a dog—but please know you could do so at your own risk.