DelcoReviewSummer2017 - 30

Can I Break a Car Window
to Save a Dying Dog?
By Kristina M. Bergsten, Esquire

I recently connected on social media
with former DCBA member Kristina M.
Bergsten (DeSenze), Esq., now practicing in Denver, Colorado, as BERGSTEN
LAW OFFICES. Bergsten Law Offices has
found success in combining a fundamental understanding of the big picture with
the complexity of daily interactions and
experiences; while providing proactive
solutions to a diversity of clients. While
prepared to represent clients in all areas
of criminal law, the firm also specializes
in Animal Law. Bergsten Law Offices understands how important your pet is to you
and that is why they dedicate themselves
to representation in dog bite defense, civil
actions, and veterinary malpractice.
Animal Law is an area we often do not
hear much about. I read with great interest
a couple of the "Bergsten Blogs" relative
to animals; namely, "Pitt Bulls and Breed
Bans: 'Is my dog illegal?' What Can I
Do?" and "Dude, Where's My Dog?!?"
I chose to share with you, with Kristina's
approval of course, her recent Blog, "Can
I break a car window to save a dying
dog?" The number one excuse we hear for
leaving a dog in a parked car is "I was
only gone for a few minutes." But did you
know that a dog can experience irreversible brain damage and even death in a
hot car in as little as 10 to 15 minutes?
Leaving windows slightly open does not
significantly decrease the rising heat rate.
The heat inside a car can rise very quickly,
almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, rapidly turning your vehicle into a death trap
for children or animals left inside. It is
called the Greenhouse Effect. Dogs cannot
sweat or handle the heat like we humans
can. In a hot, closed car, your dog's blood
can thicken to the point that his or her
heart will be in severe stress. Highly active
cells such as your dog's brain, intestinal
and liver cells are at greatest risk for heat
trauma which is why irreversible brain
damage is such a concern. Damage can
happen hours or even days after the animal is removed from the hot car. So remember, when you park the car, don't park
the dog too! Play it cool and leave your
dog safe at home - not in a hot car!

30 | Summer 2017

Yes. In April of this year, Governor Hickenlooper, an American politician, businessman and the 42nd and current Governor of
Colorado, in office since 2011, signed a bill
into law protecting Good Samaritans from
prosecution who break car windows to save
dying dogs. However, be aware that the law
does not go into effect until August 9, 2017.
There are, of course, some requirements in
order to receive protection under the law and
not be prosecuted for damaging property:
1. You must have a reason to believe the
pet is in immediate danger such as death or a
serious medical complication,
2. Seek other methods to enter the vehicle
and only use necessary force,
3. Make a reasonable effort to find the
car's owner,
4. Call the police or animal control, and
5. Wait by the broken window for authorities to arrive.
Animal control and the police are required
to take action against people who leave their
dogs in hot cars. Such pet owners could face
charges associated with animal cruelty and
even possible jail time. If you find yourself
breaking windows to save pets, following the
above steps will keep you from landing in legal trouble along with the pet owner.
It is always best to leave your pet at home
where he/she is cool and comfortable. Even
taking walks during the day on hot concrete
or asphalt can be extremely damaging to pets:
their paws can get burnt, blistered, infected,
and scarred. If you have to walk your pooch
during hotter parts of the day, make sure to
choose shady routes with opportunities for
your pet to walk on grass or dirt. Also remember that animals can get sunburns on their
skins just like people.
Conscientious pet ownership prevents pets
from being in dangerous situations, and Good
Samaritans from breaking windows.
Note: Be mindful, this Blog pertains to Colorado Law. What should you do if you see
a dog trapped in a car on a hot day in your
state? The answer is a bit nuanced, as there is
a legal solution that could take too long and a
moral one that may get you in legal trouble.

Is it against the law to leave a dog unattended
in a hot car in your state? Although animal
cruelty, neglect, endangerment, and abuse in
a variety of forms are illegal in all 50 states,
in varying degrees that can earn the offender
a simple citation all the way up to a felony
charge; only 16 of those states have laws on
the books that specifically prohibit leaving an
animal locked inside a hot car.
Of all fifty states, only Arizona, California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota,
Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New
York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode
Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia have state statutes in place that protect
dogs specifically from being trapped in cars.
In the 16 states named above, although it is
illegal to leave a dog unattended, it is also unlawful for a concerned citizen to take matters
into their own hands.
Of the 16 states that make it illegal to
leave a dog in a parked car, only 14 grant
permission to either law enforcement, animal
control, or other authorized personnel to enter
a vehicle. In New Jersey and West Virginia,
although it is illegal to leave a dog trapped in
a hot car, no one, not even law enforcement
officers, are granted the authority to break into
the vehicle to save the dog from dying.
What about those other 34 states?
Although the remaining 34 states may not
have laws that specifically make it illegal to
leave a dog (or other animal) unattended in a
vehicle, all 50 states have laws in place to protect animals from abuse, neglect, and cruelty.
It can be argued that a dog left unattended in
a parked car, without protection from extreme
heat (or cold), that is suffering or showing
signs of distress, is the victim of cruelty. In
other words, even though a dog owner may
reside in one of the 34 states without specific
laws to protect dogs in hot cars, they can be
(and very often are) charged with animal
cruelty for doing so. Additionally, although
state laws may not specifically address dogs
trapped in hot cars, many county and municipal laws do address the issue. Check with
your own city and county to be sure of the
exact laws in your area.



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