Dogs in hot cars: What can you legally do to help?

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As the weather heats up, folks are wondering what is the correct action to take when you see a dog locked inside of a hot car (WTVD)

With summer right around the corner, it should come as no surprise that somewhere in the country, a pet owner will leave their furry friend locked in a car. The pet is often times in distress and rescued by concerned strangers who attend to the animal's rescue.

In recent months, messages have been appearing on social media instructing people to take a picture of an animal in distress, break the window to free the pet, and call the police. By doing so, according to the posts, you clear yourself of any legal liability to damages to the pet owner's vehicle.


The frequency of posts led the Chapel Hill Police Department to post on Facebook urging residents to do no such thing. Instead, CHPD recommends citizens call 911 and wait for the proper authorities to arrive.



"It's going to depend on the situation if a dog or cat is in distress. It looks like it may be on the verge of death, then maybe I would break the window," said Hannah Stewart as she was leaving Petco.

In North Carolina, however, that's not the case. Current law states the only people held free of any liability for damages to property to free an animal are, "any animal control officer, animal cruelty investigator appointed under G.S. 19A-45, law enforcement officer, firefighter, or rescue squad worker."

SEE THIS NORTH CAROLINA LAW HERE

This type of law is commonly referred to as a Good Samaritan Law.

"I think you just have to make a decision on the relative urgency of the situation like anything else in life," said physician Bill Norcross. Norcross told ABC11 he is in favor of Good Samaritan laws in general. If in a scenario where he needs to save a dog from a hot vehicle, hesitation would be the last thing on his mind.

"If a dog is going to die and you have to deal with it in the court of law later, then so be it," Norcross said.

California is one state, for example, that provides protection to citizens who cause damage to property to free a pet or a human. Read about that law here.

Triangle resident Amy Andres hopes pet owners would shy away from pressing charges if their vehicle had any damage.

"Hopefully you wouldn't do that and I hope they would be thankful that you helped their pet," she said. "Not be angry with you because you broke their window and saved their pet's life."

"You just have to make a decision based on the context. But I think it makes sense to tell people to call police first," Norcross said.

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