Judge's Gavel - Legal

There is reason now to celebrate in the state of Tennessee; as of July 1st, it is legal to break into a vehicle to rescue a pet left in a hot car. Dogs and dog lovers everywhere, rejoice!

It is a sad sight to see a dog left in a car in this scorching heat while the owner is nowhere to be found. And in many instances, you can be fined and arrested for trying to help the suffering dog. But now, a groundbreaking law in Tennessee allows Good Samaritans to break into the car to rescue the animal.

The law is an extension of the Good Samaritan law that allows people to break into cars to rescue children who have been left alone in vehicles.

Tennessee State Representative David Hawk says he came up with the idea after hearing the story of a dog that died between the time someone called 911 and the police could arrive. “It’s good for folks to know that they have this ability to take action should a possible tragic event happen,” Hawk said.

The law, as enacted, adds animals to the existing law that gives immunity from liability for damage caused to a vehicle while breaking in to rescue a child who is in danger.  It will prevent a person from being sued if they break into a hot car to rescue a dog or cat.

On a hot day, the temperature in a car can reach 120 degrees even with the windows cracked. This can lead to heat stroke, suffocation and death. Heat stroke in dogs is especially hard to reverse according veterinarians.

“The ASPCA strongly supports states giving law enforcement and Good Samaritans the ability to intervene to protect animals suffering in hot cars,” said Chloe Waterman, ASPCA’s senior manager.

Aside from the Volunteer State, 16 other states have laws prohibiting unattended animals in cars. Tennessee’s is the first of its kind.

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