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Dogs in Parked Cars: What’s the Law?

Stories from HART

Dogs in Parked Cars: What’s the Law?

Sarah Myers

Every summer, we see the same terrible tragedy take place around the country: pets are left in parked cars. Temperatures skyrocket inside a car on a hot day, and pets left in the car can die in as little as six minutes.

These pets are our family, and their deaths are needless and heartbreaking.

If you live in Maryland, you need to know the law when it comes to dogs in hot cars. In this guide, we'll go over the laws about pets locked in hot cars and give you an update on coming changes to the law. 

Dogs In Hot Cars: What's The Law?

Maryland is one of many states where it is illegal to leave a cat or dog unattended in your vehicle, regardless of the weather. But this law also includes a description of who can break into a car to rescue a pet.

Under Maryland state law, only emergency services personnel are allowed to break into a car to assist a pet in distress. This includes police officers, animal control officers, firemen, or public safety officers.

It is illegal for a member of the general public to break in to a car to save a pet in distress.

This means that if you break a window to save a pet, you will be forced to pay damages to the owner of the car. 

If you do spot a dog in a hot car, your first step should be to call 911. They can give you advice on how to handle the situation and they can send an officer to assess the situation as well.  

A New Law Could Be On The Way

Although current state law prevents anyone who isn't authorized to remove pets from a hot car, that may be about to change. The Maryland General Assembly is looking at a bill that would make it legal for anyone to break into a car to rescue a pet. 

According to the bill, anyone could be allowed to break into a car to rescue a pet in distress with immunity. Before they break in, however, there are two key things that must happen. 

First, that person would have to call emergency services to try to get assistance. If emergency services are too far away and the person decides to break into the car, they must place a notice on the windshield that states they broke in. 

During the process of breaking in, the person is not allowed to use any more force than necessary. For example, if they destroy more than the window to get in, they would be in violation of the law. 

After freeing the pet, the person must stay with the pet until emergency services arrive. This gives people the opportunity to save the lives of pets in those crucial minutes where the pet is salvageable. 

Be Proactive, Save Lives

No matter what your home state law says, the only way you can help dogs in hot cars is to be proactive. Always try to locate law enforcement first and be sure to try to locate the pet’s owner before taking drastic action.

If you have any questions about caring for your pet or pet adoption, please contact HART For Animals to learn more.