MO Law Says You Still CANNOT Break A Window To Save A Dog In A Hot Car
It's gonna get hot out there, I don't have to tell you that. But you might need to think about your furbabies in this heat as well.
We talked about this last year, and it was a very polarizing topic. I personally don't understand why people need to take their dogs out with them on very hot days (I'd think they'd want to stay in the AC) but then, I've never owned a dog, so maybe I can't understand.
You'll see on social media from time to time people will try to spread awareness about the issue of leaving a dog in a car out in the heat with the windows up. People will encourage you to break the car window, and they're just trying to help, sure. But the fact of the matter is, if you do that in Missouri, you will be charged. According to Jefferson City attorney Todd Miller:
Missouri’s Good Samaritan Law Section 537.037 RSMo is often referenced by some in our state who desire to help animals in hot or cold cars, but this law does not specifically target pets or animals in its text. Instead, Section 537.037 is silent regarding the type of victims that can be helped without liability. It exempts any physician or surgeon, registered professional nurse or license practical nurse or any person licensed as a mobile emergency medical technician from civil damages for acts or omissions other than damages occasioned by gross negligence or by willful or wanton acts or omissions when rendering emergency care. Again, no reference to dogs, cats or domesticated animals is written in Missouri’s Good Samaritan Law.
So if you do it, know you probably will go to court, and you'll have to pay the damages, too. In fact, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, each state law is different:
Although 29 states have some form of “hot car” law that prohibits leaving a companion animal unattended in a parked vehicle, the laws differ drastically from place to place:
Only eight states — California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Tennessee — have “Good Samaritan” laws that allow any person to break a car window to save a pet. Alabama and Arizona have bills pending.
In six of those states — California, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee and Wisconsin — “Good Samaritans” must first contact law enforcement before breaking into the car in order for their actions to be considered legal.
In 19 states, only public officials such as law enforcement and humane officers can legally break into a car to rescue an animal (Arizona, California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia and Washington).
In New Jersey and West Virginia, although it is illegal to confine an animal in a hot car, no one has the authority to break into a vehicle to save the animal, not even law enforcement.
You'll notice that Missouri is nowhere on that list. So what CAN you do? If you think the animal is real danger, call the police. Let people know it's not okay to leave their dog in a hot car "just for a few minutes". After all, the temperature inside the vehicle can be significantly higher than outside of it, even during nice weather.
Stay safe out there!