If you see a dog in a car that is not running and it's either too cold or too hot, can you save the animal by breaking a window? Here's what New York State law says. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund,

When an animal dies in a hot car, most of their humans say they left them 'just for a minute.' If you see someone leave their animal in a parked car, tell them that even if it’s a pleasant day outside, the temperature inside the car can skyrocket fast. Cracking a window doesn’t eliminate the risk of heatstroke or death.

On the flip side, frigid temperatures in your vehicle can also be deadly to your pet,

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), “cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.” Even with a one-degree temperature drop below normal levels, your dog or cat can get hypothermia.

Photo by Oleksandr Horbach on Unsplash
Photo by Oleksandr Horbach on Unsplash

According to New York Agriculture and Markets Law § 353-d,

Confinement of companion animals in vehicles: extreme temperatures. 1. A person shall not confine a companion animal in a motor vehicle in extreme heat or cold without proper ventilation or other protection from such extreme temperatures where such confinement places the companion animal in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury due to exposure to such extreme heat or cold.

While it is illegal to leave an animal in a vehicle unattended in extremely hot or cold weather, only certain people can actually break a car window to rescue the animal.

Where the operator of such a vehicle cannot be promptly located, a police officer, peace officer, peace officer acting as an agent of a duly incorporated humane society, emergency medical services personnel, paid firefighter, or volunteer firefighter who in the performance of such volunteer firefighter's duties are directed to respond to a call for assistance for such animal may take necessary steps to remove the animal or animals from the vehicle.

Photo by Gary Samaha on Unsplash
Photo by Gary Samaha on Unsplash

Any of the people listed above are protected from criminal or civil litigation due to their actions to free the pet. Any person who leaves their companion animal in an unsafe vehicle can receive a fine, according to New York State law,

Any person who knowingly violates the provisions of subdivision one of this section shall be guilty of a violation, punishable by a fine of not less than fifty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars for a first offense, and a fine of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred and fifty dollars for a second and subsequent offenses.

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