A familiar situation for many of us: you are out running errands and you notice a parked car with the window cracked.  It’s a warm summer day with a slight breeze.  As you walk past the car, you see a panting dog in the backseat and it seems the dog is suffering from the heat.

What do you do?

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear about people leaving their dogs in the car on a hot day. Today, we see it posted all over social media.

Did you know that on an 85-degree day, even with the windows cracked, your car’s temperature can skyrocket to 105 degrees in just 10 minutes? High temperatures can cause heat stroke, irreparable organ damage, and even death.  As much as we love our pets, the Humane Society of the U.S. recommends that unless you can take your pet inside with you, leave your pet home.

Nonetheless, if you encounter this situation be aware that the Ohio legislature has addressed what onlookers are permitted to do in such an instance.  Ohio law actually permits the exact same measures that may be taken to save a child left in a hot car as for a pet.  These are known as the Good Samaritan Laws.  These are the instructions outlined in the statutes for both pets and children:

  • Start by determining if the vehicle is locked or if there is another reasonable method for the animal to exit the vehicle.
  • If not, and you have a good faith belief that entry into the vehicle is necessary because of the imminent harm the animal could suffer, then you must make a good faith effort to contact the local law enforcement agency, the fire department, or a 911 operator.
  • If such contact is not possible prior to forcibly entering the vehicle, contact must be made immediately afterwards, and the Good Samaritan must remain with the animal until first responders or law enforcement arrive.
  • Finally, the Good Samaritan must place a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with his or her contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the animal, and the fact that the authorities have been notified.

It is important to keep in mind that you may only use the minimal force necessary to free the animal.  If you are reckless in the manner in which you enter the vehicle, then you could be held civilly liable for the damage.  Hopefully none of us will find ourselves in this position, but if you do, now you’re better informed!