Can you break a car window to save a trapped pet? Here is what’s allowed under California law

by ZeuCer

(KTXL) — When temperatures get warmer, the inside of the car can get hot at a rapid rate, and leaving your pet inside a hot vehicle can lead can to serious injury or death, according to emergency officials.

As the temperatures continue to rise in California, it’s important to keep your pets safe from the outdoor heat.

According to California law, a person can’t leave or confine an animal in “any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal.”

California penal code 597.7 says endangering conditions include heat, cold, lack of ventilation, lack of food or water, or “other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.”

What are the penalties for leaving a pet in a car?

A first-time violation could be up to $100 per animal, according to California law. If a pet suffers a significant injury while unattended, pet owners could receive a $500 fine and/or imprisonment for up to six months in county jail.

Those who violated the law a second time, regardless if the animal gets injured, will get a $500 fine and/or six months in jail.

According to Sacramento County Animal Care Services, hot weather makes it harder for dogs to cool, as they don’t have the ability to sweat. They cool off their bodies by panting and through the pads of their paws.

Temperatures inside parked cars can increase 20 degrees in 10 minutes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cracking the window open won’t keep pets safe, as the car can still reach triple-digit temperatures.

According to the county, a dog’s normal temperature is 101.5 degrees and brain damage could occur at 107 degrees. If a dog’s body temperature reaches 120 degrees, it can suffer from heat exhaustion and die.

Can you save a trapped pet from a hot car?

California law says a person can step in and help remove the animal from the vehicle and will “ not be criminally liable for actions taken reasonably and in good faith.”

If a person has “good faith belief,” it is legal for them to “forcibly enter the vehicle,” but they would need to do so after they do the following:

•Determine the vehicle is locked and there is no other reasonable manner to remove the animal from inside the vehicle

•Have good faith that forcible entry is necessary if the animal is in danger or suffering harm inside the vehicle

•Call 911, contact local law enforcement, fire department or animal control before “forcibly entering the vehicle”

•Remain with the pet in a safe location, but “reasonably close” to the vehicle until an officer arrives

•Use no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the animal than was necessary under the circumstances

•Immediatley turn the animal over to an officer of law enforcement, animal control or any other emergency responder

How many reports does law enforcement receive?

During the warm months of 2022, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office received multiple calls regarding a dog or cat locked inside an unattended vehicle.

From May to September 2022, the sheriff’s office received a total of 60 calls of pets inside a hot vehicle, according to numbers provided to FOX40 News.

So far in 2023, three reports of such incidents occurred in May.

Here are the numbers from 2022:

•May — 16

•June — 9

•July — 15

•August — 16

•September — 4

How to keep your pet safe in the heat

To minimize the risk of any heat-related illnesses in dogs, Sacramento County listed the following tips on its website:

•Never leave your dog in a parked car
•Bring pets inside and avoid extreme heat
•Don’t exercise with your pets when it is too hot
•Use sunscreen
•Don’t take your pets to crowded summer events

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