New law regarding pets at risk inside vehicles

Tracy DeFore

Special to Valley News

A new law went into effect Jan. 1 that protects good Samaritans from being held criminally liable if they break into a locked vehicle to rescue an animal in distress.

County Animal Services said there are certain things to keep in mind before anyone breaks into a vehicle to free a pet.

First, it is not illegal to leave a pet in a vehicle. Animals can stay inside as long as they aren’t in danger from the heat, the cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water or any other circumstances that could put them at risk.

If the animal is alert and active, it is not in immediate danger. In those instances, county animal control officers would not break into a vehicle. The officer would post a notice on the vehicle and return to check on the pet later, depending on the weather conditions, the temperature inside the vehicle, whether the windows are cracked open and if the pet has water. If the animal does need help, officers have tools to rapidly break into the vehicle and free the animal.

A member of the public must follow similar steps before breaking into a vehicle. They should determine if the vehicle is locked, and there is no other way to remove the animal. They should have a good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary, because the animal is in imminent danger if it is not immediately removed. Contact local law enforcement, the fire department, animal control or call 911 before forcibly entering the vehicle. Lastly, they should use no more force than necessary to remove the animal.

Once the animal is out, the rescuer must stay with the pet in a safe location near the vehicle until it can be turned over to a peace officer, humane officer, animal control officer or another emergency responder.

2 Responses to "New law regarding pets at risk inside vehicles"

  1. DP   February 5, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    This is an horrible new law. It’s going to lead to well intending but ill informed people breaking dogs out of vehicles when there really is no danger. And freed dogs running loose, and possibly getting injured or killed. And possibly biting their supposed rescuer or other bystanders. Dogs can often feel threatened or protective in a small enclosed space such as a vehicle. People should be calling animal control if they think a dog is in danger.

  2. Samantha Berryessa   February 8, 2017 at 10:41 am

    This is long overdue. So many dogs in hot cars are heard in parking lots where I shop. I always alert the local policing agencies, but they are so booked on other crimes, it is always a bit scary. So glad this law is in place, but agree is needs to be followed correctly.


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