Is It Legal to Smash a Window to Rescue Dog in Hot Car in South Dakota?
Summer is winding down but temperatures and humidity are still high. Unfortunately, we are still hearing stories about dogs left in hot cars. It takes less than an hour for the temperature inside a car (even with an open window) to double when it's just 70 degrees outside.
The big question: Are you within your legal rights to rescue a dog by breaking a window if you spot a dog you think is in trouble?
South Dakota Codified Law section 40-1-36, which covers unattended animals in standing or parked vehicles states:
"No owner or caretaker may leave a dog, cat, or another small animal unattended in a standing or parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of such animal. Reasonable force may be used to remove such animal by any peace officer or agent or officer of any humane society. No such person may be held civilly or criminally liable for any damage caused by removing such animal from a vehicle." - Chapter 40-1. Cruelty, Abuse and Injury to Animals
UPDATED: The key wording here is, "No such person may be held civilly or criminally liable for any damage..." meaning a peace officer, agent, or any office of any humane society." So technically, no. But the overwhelming response to this story on social media was "If I see a dog in trouble - I will break the window."
In South Dakota, the law clearly states that "any dog, cat, or other small animals shall not be left unattended in a standing or parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of such animal."
The Animal Defense Fund says you should first call 9-1-1, as most states allow a public safety officer to break into the car and rescue an animal if its life is threatened.
The best thing you can do is politely remind any dog owner you spot leaving their pooch in the car that it's dangerous when the temps are even moderately high.