dog looks out car window

Good Samaritans Can Now Rescue Dogs from Hot Cars in TN with Passing of New Law

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Have you heard about the extension to the Good Samaritan Law that took effect in Tennessee on July 1st? It’s very exciting news for animals and animal lovers! Legislation put forth by David Hawk, sponsor of House Bill 537, says that any person can break into a locked car in order to save an animal in imminent danger of suffering harm just as a person can to save a child in imminent danger, free from civil liability if:

“…the person: (1) Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the vehicle; (2) Has a good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the minor or animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from the vehicle and, based upon the circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is a reasonable one; (3) Has contacted either the local law enforcement agency, the fire department, or a 911 operator prior to forcibly entering the vehicle; (4) Places a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with the person’s contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the minor or animal, and the fact that the authorities have been notified; HB0537 002190 -2- (5) Remains with the minor or animal in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until law enforcement, fire, or another emergency responder arrives; and (6) Used no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the child or animal from the vehicle than was necessary under the circumstances…”

What You Need to Know

A Warning sign for the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car.

This is great, because as pet lovers we know that a hot car can be deadly to a dog very quickly. When the temperature outside reaches seventy degrees, it’s time to stop bringing your dog with you to run errands unless you can bring him inside with you at every stop! This is stipulated in the bill: an animal must be in imminent danger before Good Samaritans are able to break into the car to help him. If it is 50 degrees outside and there’s a dog sitting in the grocery store parking lot in a car, that dog will be fine. Let’s all make sure to use common sense!

A dog looking out a car window.

There are a few other reasonable stipulations included in the bill. You must check to make sure the car is actually locked before you break a window. You must do minimal damage to the vehicle. You must check to make sure you cannot locate the car’s owner as well as notify police of the situation before making any moves. Make sure to read House Bill 537 in its entirety.

First Law of Its Kind

A dog looking out a car window licking their lips.

Tennessee (my home state!) is the first state with a law that allows passers-by to break into a car to save a dog. Other states have passed laws that allow only law enforcement, animal welfare officers, or other government employees to break into a locked car. Rebecca F. Wisch with Michigan State University has put together a Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles for easy reference.

I think that this is a well-needed law here in Tennessee, and hopefully other states will soon follow our lead in protecting some of our most vulnerable friends.

Have you ever rescued a dog from a hot car? Tell us your story!

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