States with Laws to Protect Pets in Hot Cars

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11 Jun 2024 5:00 PM

Did you know that in even an air temp of 65° the inside of a car can quickly heat to near 100° in just a matter of minutes? It is never a good idea to leave your pet in a hot car and in some states there are laws against it. We all know to "look before you lock" and never to leave a child in a hot car, but it is equally important to raise awareness that we should never leave our furry friends in hot cars either. According to the Humane Society, "High temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage and even death."

Here are tips from the Humane Society on what to do if you see a pet left in a hot car:

  • Take down the car's make, model and license plate number.

  • If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car's owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.

  • If the owner can't be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive. In several states, good Samaritans can legally remove animals from cars under certain circumstances, so be sure to know the laws in your area and follow any steps required.

According to a study done by the University of Michigan College of Law in 2023, "31 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle." Many states REQUIRE you to have already attempted to locate the owner or reach out to law enforcement BEFORE attempting to save the animal or only protect law enforcement officers.

20 states prohibit leaving a pet in a hot car AND offer immunity to the rescuer, but again, the rescuer doesn't mean anyone, in some states it can ONLY be a law enforcement officer or veterinarian. Depending on the state the consequence for leaving a pet in a hot car can range from a fine to a felony Those states are (in orange on map below):

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Delaware

  • Illinois

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Massachusetts

  • Minnesota

  • Nevada

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • North Carolina

  • North Dakota

  • Rhode Island

  • South Dakota

  • Vermont

  • West Virginia

11 states have laws that offer immunity for the rescuer of the animal - again check with your specific state on who qualifies as a "rescuer" and at what point (pre-post 911 call or attempt to locate an owner). They are (in yellow on the map below):

  • Connecticut

  • Florida

  • Indiana

  • Kansas

  • Louisiana

  • Ohio

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Tennesse

  • Virginia

  • Wisconsin

Check with your local laws before you may find yourself in this situation. And if your state doesn't yet have a law prohibiting leaving pets in parked cars, you can take action by calling local representatives and proposing a change.

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