In These Five States It’s Legal to Break Into Cars to Rescue Dogs

Photo Credit: @Brigitte_Bordeaux_Rackauskas/Instagram

In the blistering heat of summer, some pet owners forget to crack windows or forget that they’ve left their dogs in their cars. Inside a closed car, the heat can reach well over 100 degrees, which often leads to death of people and animals left inside.

To date, laws exist in 16 states allowing law enforcement to break into cars to rescue an animal trapped inside. But rescuing an animal, without being prosecuted for a crime, is not as easy for citizens. Five states, however, have laws on the books that allow citizens to break into someone’s car to rescue animals: Florida, Ohio (in August, 2016), Tennessee,Vermont, and Wisconsin. California, Massachusetts, and Michigan are considering similar legislation.

Thanks to BarkPost, these Good Samaritan laws are now more widely known.

This spring, in the Sunshine State, the Florida Legislature passed The Unattended Persons and Animals in Motor Vehicles Act which “provides immunity from civil liability for damage to a motor vehicle related to the rescue of a person or animal under certain circumstances; providing applicability, etc.” For Good Samaritans, breaking into a car is legal, but they must first call law enforcement before attempting to rescue the animal/person in distress.

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This August, in the Buckeye State, a new law will go into effect that also protects citizens who try to save an animal in a car. Last May, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law protections for citizens from civil prosecution if they cause damages to a vehicle while they attempt to rescue a pet or human trapped inside a car.

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The Free State was the first state to decriminalize the rescue of dogs and/or people trapped in hot vehicles. Tennessee’s law went into effect in July, 2015, which extended existing Good Samaritan Law provisions. Citizens are now protected from civil liability suits if they damage someone else’s personal property while attempting to save an animal. Similar to the Floridian law, authorities must first be called after determining the vehicle is locked and help is needed.

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The Granite State‘s law, legalized “Forcible Entry of Motor Vehicles for Rescue Purposes” for all citizens. Vermont’s law just went into effect on July 1, 2016. Its stipulations are similar to those of Florida, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.


Photo Credit: @Brigitte_Bordeaux_Rackauskas/Instagram

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law last November provisions that state:

a person is immune from civil liability for property damage or injury resulting from his or her forcible entry into a vehicle to rescue an animal or person as long as the following conditions are met: 1) The person must have a “good faith belief” that the person or domestic animal is in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm and use no more force than necessary to remove the person or animal; 2) That person must first determine the vehicle is locked and forcible entry is necessary, and that person must dial 911 or other emergency services prior to this action; 3) In addition, the person must wait with the person or animal until emergency services arrive or leave information on the vehicle’s windshield as described in the law.


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Before breaking into a car to save an animal or child, citizens must first:

  • determine that the child or animal is in immediate danger and the car is locked
  • call the police
  • stay outside of the car until help arrives
  • use no more force than necessary, and
  • leave a note if the owner is not reached by law enforcement.

h/t Dog Bark


Bethany Blankley

Bethany Blankley is a political analyst for Fox News Radio and has appeared on television and radio programs nationwide. She writes about political, cultural, and religious issues in America from the perspective of an evangelical and former communications staffer. She was a communications strategist for four U.S. Senators, one U.S. Congressman, a former New York governor, and several non-profits. She earned her MA in Theology from The University of Edinburgh, Scotland and her BA in Political Science from the University of Maryland. Follow her @bethanyblankley &

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