Last week we reported about a new law being considered in Massachusetts that is currently under debate and about to head before the House of Representatives. The bill would allow people to break pets out of hot cars without fear of legal reprisal. We said we hoped other states would follow Massachusetts' lead, so we are thrilled to tell you that Vermont now has a law that makes it legal to break pets - and children - out of hot cars.
According to the new law, which came into effect on July 1st 2016, members of the public and law enforcement officers will now be able to rescue pets and children from hot cars, and remain free of civil liability; that means no damages will need to be paid.
As with the bill being considered in Massachusetts, there are a few steps that must be taken to comply with the law; you must first ensure that the car is locked and that the pet parent is not in the vicinity, then ascertain that you have reason to believe the dog - or child - is in imminent danger, that no more force than necessary is applied in breaking when into the vehicle, that you call 911 or alert law enforcement in another way before breaking in, and finally, stay with the rescued pet or child until the police arrive.
You should also leave a note on the car telling the pet parent what action you have taken and why, although the law does not specify what sort of language you can use in said note.
According to Cory Smith, the Director of Public Policy for Companion Animals at the Humane Society of the United States: "Vermont's new law not only prevents tragedy from striking people and pets, but creates more opportunities for spreading the lifesaving message that if your dog cannot come on the errand with you, it is best to leave them at home."
If you are in any doubt as to how dangerous a hot car is to dogs, take a look at the video below, which was produced by Dogs Trust. It makes for uncomfortable viewing, but it is worth the watch.
Please consider your pets' well-being on warm days and ensure they are safe, well fed, and hydrated. Most importantly, never leave a dog or cat in your car, even for a few minutes. When in doubt, leave them at home.