What can be done Legally about Leaving a Dog in a Hot Car?

It’s something you hear about in the news a lot these days. Is it carelessness in every case? Or are there people out there who actually aren’t aware that it gets super-hot in a closed-up car in summertime.


dog in a car


Actually, it’s not even just summer. Even at 70 degrees, it’s too hot to leave an animal in the car. With the greenhouse effect of the rolled up windows, the inside hits 104 degrees!


A 34 degree increase in temperatures. Sure, 104 might sound like a nice time in the sauna to you, but things are much different for our canine friends. Even temperatures in the 90’s can be dangerous after prolonged exposure.


What Should You Do?


If you happen to be the person that finds a dog locked in a potentially hot car, you should take down the cars make, model, and license plate number. Assuming you’re in a parking lot outside a store or other public area, go ask a store manager to make an announcement


If that fails to attract the owners, call the publicly listed phone number to the nearest police department. Or you can reach out to local animal control officers.


dog rescued from being locked in hot car


What does the Law Say About Locked Dogs in Cars


It honestly changes from state to state. In some areas, good samaritans are allowed to intervene. At least eight of the 50 states have good samaritan laws to be exact. In others, it’s considered illegal to break into a car.


So what are your options? First, it’s best to look up your individual state laws to know what’s allowed in your local area. We tried to help you out here by creating a list of laws by state.


Definitely do not consider this list to be legal advice. And do your own research because things might have changed since the time of this publication. As of the time of this writing, these were the references I was able to find by doing a google search for “dog locked in car law in the state of <insert a state>”. I tried to only reference official pages whenever possible.


A list of Laws about Rescuing Dogs Locked in a Car by State

ALABAMA – Lawmakers recently looked at legislation to make it illegal to lock a dog in a hot car. The same law would also allow bystanders to break into vehicles to save an animal.

ALASKA – Unknown

ARIZONA – Text of the law available HERE

ARKANSAS – We could not find a clear law defining the actions bystanders may take.

CALIFORNIA – Read the full law here.

COLORADO – Their emergency assistance law excludes livestock.

DELAWARE – Go here then click on 1325.

FLORIDA – Also excludes livestock from their law.

GEORGIA – No exact law, but June is Pet Safety in Hot Weather Awareness Month.

HAWAII – No official law found in Google, but there were several recent attempts.

IDAHO – Senate Bill 1244(aa) is expected to pass this year. It’s aim is to remove any fear of legal consequences if you rescue a dog.

ILLINOIS – The law allows law enforcement to rescue trapped dogs from cars.

INDIANA – Excludes invertebrates and livestock, but protects cats and dogs.

IOWA – Seems to require that you call 911 first, according to this local source.

KANSAS – Click your heels three times and read the laws regarding Toto here.

KENTUCKY – No apparent law for pets yet.

LOUISIANA – The ink’s not even dry yet on this one. The law was passed last week.

MAINE – You’re required to call an authority as defined by §4019.

MARYLAND – Read § 21-1004.1 here.

MASSACHUSETTS – A recently passed law limits rescue efforts to first responders.

MICHIGAN – No laws yet, but this one has been introduced to the legislature.

MINNESOTA – The current law applies to cats and dogs.

MISSISSIPPI – Unable to find any laws or pending legislation.

MISSOURI – No laws found in Google.

MONTANA – Again, we couldn’t find any laws for this state.

NEBRASKA – Okay, states that begin with an M or an N…you guys need to get your act together! Sadly, we can’t find anything on Nebraska either.

NEVADA – Has N.R.S. 574.195 on the books.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – Requires you to call law enforcement or the Humane Society. Read the Statute added to the law in 2010 right here.

NEW JERSEY – Has animal cruelty laws, but nothing to protect good samaritans yet.

NEW MEXICO – We couldn’t find anything on Walter White’s home state in Google.

NEW YORK – Allows law officers to remove trapped animals from hot cars.

NORTH CAROLINA – Read the law here. It’s limited to first responders.

NORTH DAKOTA – Allows law enforcement to remove the trapped animal.

OHIO – Has a thoroughly written good samaritan law on the books. It’s honestly one of the most detailed and commonsensical laws we found. Read all the details here.

OKLAHOMA – Two women were convicted of breaking and entering for rescuing puppies. No laws on the books to protect good samaritans.

OREGON – Enacted a law in 2017 to provide protections for good samaritans.

PENNSYLVANIA – There’s nothing conclusive in Google search showing us whether or not “Senate Bill 636, the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act” passed.

RHODE ISLAND – Has a provision to allow law enforcement or animal control to be called in to rescue animals from a locked car.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Joins many other states in our list with a recent legislative effort meant to address this growing problem.

SOUTH DAKOTA – Allows law enforcement and animal control to take action. Read the law here.

TENNESSEE – The Volunteer State allows you to take action, provided you follow these guidelines written into the law.

TEXAS – Everything’s bigger in Texas…especially the summer highs…Yet, in spite of the heat, it is not legal to remove a trapped dog yet.

UTAH – We couldn’t find any info on the Beehive state. Check with local law enforcement.

VERMONT – Allows first responders to act to save an animal.

VIRGINIA – Exempts police and first responders from property damage liability according to Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6504.1

WASHINGTON – Has this law allowing first responders to act.

WEST VIRGINIA – Currently has no good samaritan laws regarding animals trapped in hot vehicles.

WISCONSIN – Has this to say about saving a trapped animal.

WYOMING – No laws currently found.


My State Does Not Have a Good Samaritan Law Protecting Me From Liability if I Rescue a Dog Trapped in a Car. What Should I do next?


Always call law enforcement before taking any action. Ultimately, the choice between laws and morality is one you have to make for yourself. As pet lovers, it’s devastating for us to think we might ever be in a situation where we have to choose between facing legal action, or watching an innocent dog suffer and die.


Hopefully, changes to the laws and increased awareness and education will make these situations increasingly rare. In the meantime, let’s all do what we can to spread the word about the dangers of hot temperatures.


This article was proudly sponsored by our friends over at: https://www.poochingaround.co.uk/

They wanted us to remind you that even if you leave the windows cracked or down, it is still not safe at all to leave your dog locked in a car. While Pooching Around does offer up some great suggestions on car seats to keep your dog safe, they wanted us to stress the importance of never leaving a dog unsupervised in a vehicle. Never!

It’s not safe, even if you leave the windows down or the air conditioning on. Love and protect your pet. Don’t leave them alone to suffer and die in a locked car.




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