It is Legal to Break a Car Window to Rescue a Dog from the Heat in KY, IN, and IL?
With this week's heat advisory in the Tri-State, you would think most people know by now not to leave a living thing in a vehicle without the air conditioner, but it still happens. I have never seen a poor puppy stuck in a car, but I swear if I ever do, I don't know that I could stop myself from busting them loose! But would I end up locked in the slammer?
Is it OK to Leave Your Dog in a Parked Car?
According to a study published in 2018, a car parked in the sun on a clear day reached an average temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit after an hour. Even parked in the shade, researchers found internal temps of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. That's why getting into your vehicle after a shopping trip is like a game of hot potato as you try to buckle in and use the steering wheel.
The American Kennel Club further clarifies that you shouldn't even leave a dog in a car with the windows cracked. It can take only 15 minutes for your fur baby to overheat to dangerous levels.
There are laws in 31 states prohibiting animals from being left in cars unattended, but what can you do if you see a precious doggo panting in a hot vehicle?
Indiana Law Allows Pet Rescue With Conditions
1. Animal is a cat, dog, bunny rabbit, basically anything other than livestock
2. The person who enters the vehicle could be liable for half of the repair cost if damage is done.
3. To receive immunity from criminal charges, the person must be certain that the vehicle is not accessible by any other means. It is definitely locked and the only way to retrieve the animal is by breaking a window or door.
4. The rescuer must call 911 or try to contact law enforcement first
5. Use minimal force to gain entry. No accessive damage is caused to the vehicle.
6. Remain with the animal until authorities arrive.
It's important to note that any first responders, law enforcement, animal control, etc are completely immune from having to pay for damage incurred if they are the ones retrieving the animal from the locked vehicle. Also, the owner of the animal is not liable if their pet happens to bite or harm the individual. You can read the full Indiana code here.
Illinois and Kentucky Law Require Help From Law Enforcement
In Illinois, law enforcement or animal control officers are the only ones with the authority to forcibly remove an animal from a locked car. The only stipulation is that they must have probable cause that the pet is in danger. They also must first attempt to locate the owner and not use accessive force when entering the vehicle. You can read the full Illinois law here.
In Kentucky, it is not illegal to leave your animal in the car. There has been legislation in recent years to develop a "Good Samaritan" law that allows citizens to act in emergencies regarding animals unattended and in duress, however, none of them have made it far enough to be signed by the governor.
What to do if you find an Animal in a Hot Vehicle
1. If you are at a business, find a manager or customer service and ask them to help locate the owner of the vehicle. Get the license plate number and vehicle description first to announce over the intercom.
2. Call 911, central dispatch, or animal control depending on the severity of symptoms you notice from the animal. If they are panting, excessively drooling, or vomiting, that is an emergency and they need to be rescued as soon as possible.