Can You Break a Window to Save a Dog in South Dakota?
Mixing a little heat and humidity is not just a recipe for a hot and sticky day, but also for a dangerous place inside a car. The hot South Dakota July is a good time to remind everyone to not leave their dogs (or cats) in a hot car. Even for a few minutes. The temperature in a closed up car can rise quickly, exceeding the outside temperature by many degrees.
Most pet owners know the dangers of a hot car and take good care of their furry family members. But, sometimes, by accident or negligence, a dog ends up trapped in a car that's fast becoming an oven.
The Humane Society says "[L]eaving pets locked in cars is never safe. But when the weather gets warmer, it can be deadly. High temperatures can cause irreparable organ damage and even death."
So what do you do if you come across a dog that's locked in a car on a hot day? The Humane Society makes these suggestions:
- Take down the car's make, model, and license plate number.
- If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car's owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.
- If the owner can't be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive.
The non-emergency number for the Sioux Falls Police Department is (605) 367-7000.
But what if you feel like the situation is dire enough that action must be taken right away? What does South Dakota law say?
It is against the law in South Dakota to leave a pet unattended in a parked car in a way that could endanger the animal. Like on a hot day. But a private individual cannot break into a strangers car to save a pet and avoid being held responsible for damages.
However, South Dakota is one of 20 states where the law says that certain public officials can break into a vehicle to save a pet. The law provides that a "peace officer or agent or officer of any humane society" can use "Reasonable force" to rescue an animal from a hot car, and they should not get in trouble or have to pay for damages. So in South Dakota, to protect both the animal and yourself call the authorities. (605) 367-7000.
Unattended animals in standing or parked vehicles--Authority to remove--Liability for removal. No owner or caretaker may leave a dog, cat, or other small animal unattended in a standing or parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of such animal. Reasonable force may be used to remove such animal by any peace officer or agent or officer of any humane society. No such person may be held civilly or criminally liable for any damage caused by removing such animal from a vehicle. Source: SL 1991, ch 331, § 37.
Eleven states have so-called “Good Samaritan” hot car laws that allow for people to take matters into their own hands to rescue a pet in a hot car and avoid liability. These laws often require the person to make sure the car is in-fact locked and to contact authorities before breaking a window (for example).
The bottom line is be aware of the weather and where the pets are, and if you see a trapped pooch call the police.
Sources: The Humane Society, Animal Legal Defense Fund