Summer brings with it longer days and rising temperatures -- as well as the risk of leaving children or pets stranded in sunlit vehicles. It can take only a few minutes for a vehicle to become fatally hot in the midday sun, and if you find yourself faced with an animal trapped in a stranger's closed vehicle (or even your own), you may be at a loss as to what you can legally and logistically do to prevent a tragedy. Read on to learn more about your legal rights when it comes to breaking into another person's vehicle to prevent imminent harm to another being, as well as some of your best entry devices to allow you to quickly come to the rescue while causing as little damage as possible.
Can you be arrested for rescuing an animal in a hot car?
When faced with what could be a life or death situation, you may find yourself struggling with your innate desire to help another living being with your inner law-abiding citizen screaming that wanton property damage is illegal. Fortunately, there are currently no cases on record involving the prosecution of anyone who has smashed a car window or otherwise broken into a vehicle to rescue an animal. While it's not ever advised to purposely cause damage to another person's property, it's likely that the worst penalty that will be assessed against you for rescuing an animal trapped in a hot car is a civil judgment against you or your insurance company for the cost to repair the vehicle's window or any other damage.
It is important to take preliminary steps to reduce any liability, including calling 911, notifying the owner of the building where the car is parked so that he or she can make an announcement, and checking all door and trunk handles to see whether they're unlocked. Unless a situation poses imminent danger or the dog is already showing major signs of distress, it's best to wait for help to arrive.
What can you do to minimize damage if you're placed in a life-or-death rescue situation?
Regardless of who is paying for any damage to a vehicle incurred in a life-or-death rescue, it's important to minimize damage while allowing for quick egress. This often means shattering a side window with a sharp tool so that the glass cleanly falls away from the frame. This minimizes the risk that you or the animal will be cut while making it easier (and cheaper) to replace the window. The best tool for this purpose can often be as simple as an all-purpose window tapper and seatbelt cutter. These rescue devices are designed to help you quickly exit your vehicle if you become submerged in water or are involved in an accident that prevents you from unfastening your seatbelt or exiting through the door. Contact a business, such as Rochester Auto Glass & Mirror Co, for more information.