Is It Legal to Break a Car Window to Save a Pet in Massachusetts?
The weather is already starting to heat up across the SouthCoast, and this is your annual reminder to keep your pets (and your kids) out of hot cars.
Nothing gets my blood boiling more than when pet owners leave their dogs in extreme conditions like hot cars when they're out running errands. If you can't bring them with you, leave them at home.
According to the American Kennel Club, the inside of a car parked in 70-degree weather can reach 100 degrees in less than 20 minutes, and the American Veterinary Medical Association has found that cracking the window heats up at virtually the exact same rate. Not only are those temperatures uncomfortable, but they're also incredibly dangerous and can lead to heat stroke for your pet very quickly.
So what happens if you see a pet left inside a car by itself on a hot day? Can you legally break a car window to rescue the animal or should you wait for an animal control officer?
Massachusetts is one of eight states where it's actually legal for citizens to break the window, although if the pet's life is in danger, animal lovers certainly aren't going to let a little legality get in their way. Massachusetts law technically states that bystanders should first try to find the car's owner, reach out to local officials, and have reason to believe the animal is in imminent danger before taking further action, but after that, they are legally allowed to enter and retrieve the pet.
After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle’s owner, a person other than an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter shall not enter a motor vehicle to remove an animal to protect the health and safety of that animal in immediate danger unless the person: (i) notifies law enforcement or calls 911 before entering the vehicle; (ii) determines that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit and uses not more force than reasonably necessary to enter the motor vehicle and remove the animal; (iii) has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon known circumstances, that entry into the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal; and (iv) remains with the animal in a safe location in reasonable proximity to the vehicle until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.
And don't worry: If you break someone's window to rescue their pet from a hot car, you're also legally immune from any criminal or civil liability.
Let's hope that there's no need for shattered glass in the first place, but do what you've got to do to save those puppers!