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Tennessee Makes It Legal to Save Dogs Who Are Locked in Hot Cars

In Tennessee, a new law allows a bystander to break into a car to save a dog or other pet from life-threatening heat. Let's hope this spreads to more states!

Chris Hall  |  Jul 8th 2015


Good news: It’s now legal to save a dog’s life in Tennessee. That might sound strange, so to put it a little more formally, the State of Tennessee recently passed legislation extending its “Good Samaritan” laws that allow bystanders to break into a car if a child is in danger from heat or other causes. As of July 1, you can do the same thing for dogs who have been locked in a hot car.

Would you do this to save a dog? In many states, it's illegal. (Car with broken window via Shutterstock)

Would you do this to save a dog? In many states, it’s illegal. (Car with broken window via Shutterstock)

waga-screenshot-michael-hammons-broken-window

In May, Georgia veteran Michael Hammons faced charges for breaking into a car where a dog was suffering from the heat. (WAGA screenshot)

That’s not to say that you can just smash a car window the minute you see a dog in there. According to the law, you have to take reasonable steps first, like trying to find the owner and calling the police. Breaking into the car yourself is a last resort. “If you act reasonably, as any reasonable person would respond, you will not be at fault to save a life,” Nashville Fire Department Chief of Staff Mike Frankin told ABC News. “You will not be at any fault to save a life and or animals.” Most people might think that this was already self-evident, but as we saw earlier this summer, it’s not. In May, Michael Hammons smashed the window of a car in the parking lot of an Athens, Georgia, mall to rescue a dog who was languishing in the heat. When the owner came back, she had him arrested for criminal trespass.

Australian Shepherd in car via Shutterstock

Australian Shepherd in car via Shutterstock.

The story of Michael Hammons eventually ended well: Once his story hit the national media, the owner dropped all the charges. However, the whole thing could happen again: Like many states, Georgia’s laws provide “Good Samaritan” clauses for people who are rescuing children from hot cars, but not for those who rescue animals. Tennessee, at least, has changed that. Hopefully we’ll see more states follow that path in the future. Via WKRN

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