In Wisconsin, starting this summer, good Samaritans who see dogs — and kids — trapped in hot car can bust them out, without facing civil liability.
This makes four states that now have so-called hot car laws — all passed in the last two years. The others are Tennessee, Florida, and Ohio. California and New York lawmakers are currently considering similar bills.
Wisconsin’s law — like those in the other states — allows concerned bystanders to take a hammer to a car window only under certain conditions: You’ve got to have a good faith belief that the pet or child is in danger. “Forcible entry” must be required — in other words, make sure the car door isn’t open. You must call 911 or let law enforcement know what you’re about to do.
And then you’ve either got to stick around until the owner or the cops arrive, or leave a note on the windshield about who you are and what you did.
This law was signed by Wisconsin governor Scott Walker last November. As Milwaukee public radio station WUWM noted in a recent story, this is the first summer that the law has been in effect.
“I wonder whether or not in the 25 cases where children died last year, or hundreds, if not thousands of cases where pets died last year, whether or not people saw it happening but they didn’t think that was their business or their call or didn’t want to get in trouble damaging the property,” one of the bill’s co-authors, Reps. Tod Ohnstad, told the station.
We’re going to go ahead and editorialize here: This law is really great.
We’d like to see the other 46 states adopt their own versions of it. (Let your state lawmakers know if you’d like that, too.)
“Laws like this increase bandwidth of first response agencies and even better rely on community members to help each other out in crisis. Most people who leave a pet in a hot car do not do so out of malice, and never expect their ‘quick errand’ to result in tragedy,” said Cory Smith, the Humane Society of the United States’ director of public policy for companion animals. “These Good Samaritan laws can prevent tragedies for people and pets.”
It’d be even better if no one had to use their hammer, legal or no. When it’s hot out, don’t leave your dog in a car —
for pete’s sake, leave your dog at home.