TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Hot cars have proven dangerous for furry companions and human children alike.
With the official start of spring fast approaching, hot days have already begun to return to Texas.
However, if you were to find a dog unattended inside a hot car, would it be legal to break the window and rescue the dog? The answer is more complicated than you might think.
In other states, like West Virginia and Rhode Island, it is a crime to leave an animal unattended if there is a risk of serious injury or death, but citizens aren’t technically allowed under the law to break a window and rescue the animal, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Other states have passed laws that say law enforcement can break in to rescue an animal.
Texas currently has no “dogs in hot cars” law, but so far 31 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation on the issue. Fourteen states give civil immunity to good Samaritans who rescue an animal from an unattended vehicle.
Texas currently has a Good Samaritan Act passed into law that states “a person who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is willfully or wantonly negligent.”
In 2021, a bill (sponsored by Rep. Celia Israel) would have protected good Samaritans who rescued domestic animals and granted them civil immunity under certain circumstances. However, the legislation did not advance.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund said they are “still committed to working on this issue, however, and will continue to try new approaches in the 2023 session to get this bill signed into law and protect vulnerable pets from the intense Texas heat.”
The Humane Society of the United States has offered the following tips on how to help a dog or cat found locked in a hot car:
- Write down the car’s make, model and license plate number
- Notify the manager of a nearby business or security guard, if available, and ask them to make an announcement in effort to find the car’s owner
- If unable to locate the owner, call the non-emergency number of local police or animal control
“Leaving pets locked in cars is never safe. But when the weather gets warmer, it can be deadly,” The Humane Society said. “Protecting animals from an unnecessary death is a problem we can all agree to prevent.”