Last week I urged you not to leave your pets — or your kids alone in the car this summer.
But I didn’t tell you what you should do if you see an unsupervised child or animal in a hot car.
To be honest, there are a couple of reasons for that. First, and most importantly, I don’t want anything I write to be construed as legal advice. For one thing, I am not a lawyer so I am not qualified to dispense it. As a paralegal I can’t dispense it. And aside from all that, we live in an extremely litigious society and I would really rather not get sued.
If I could tell you what to do, here’s what I’d say. “It depends.”
It’s The Law… In Ohio
In Ohio, citizens will soon be able to take immediate action in order to “rescue” an unsupervised child or animal from a hot car. Specifically, the new law that reportedly takes effect later this summer allows a civilian to break into a vehicle in order to free a companion animal or child without fear of reprisal — but only in very specific and very limited circumstances.
The language in Ohio SB215 regarding the removal of a child and the removal of an animal is similar. So for brevity’s sake I’ll share the information regarding pets.
The new law recently inked by Ohio Gov. John Kasich stipulates that a vehicle owner can not sue someone who breaks into their car to remove an animal for damages if the person who does so:
- has checked to see if the door is locked before forcing his or her way into the vehicle
- has reason to believe the animal is in grave and immediate danger
- has made a legitimate effort to alert authorities before breaking into the car or alerts them as soon as possible afterwards
- has made a legitimate effort to inform the vehicle owner of what has transpired in writing after forcing his or her way into the car
- has stayed with the animal in a “safe location” until authorities arrived
- and has not used unnecessary force to break into the vehicle
Anyone who uses excessive force or tries to aid the animal in a manner not specified by the law automatically loses the protection otherwise afforded by it.
You can read more here.
Other State Laws
As of last year, laws in other states, such as Arizona and California allow certain authorities to use “reasonable” force to remove or rescue animals from motor vehicles. Similar provisions were in place in the following states in 2015:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
The New York law also prevents qualified individuals from being sued. In Tennessee, anyone who acts within the scope of the law is also protected.
For more information on the applicable laws in your state, visit your state legislature’s website.