Dogs in Hot Cars: New Mexico - South Carolina

Author: Simon Isham (3L) 

Post 4 of 5

This is the 4th post in the Dogs in Hot Cars series written by 3L Simon Isham. Enjoy! 

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New Mexico

New Mexico currently has no law allowing members of the public to break into a vehicle to save a suffering dog or cat. This doesn't mean that pet owners in New Mexico can get away with animal cruelty and neglect scot-free, however. Under New Mexico law, “cruelty to animals consists of a person negligently mistreating, injuring, killing without lawful justification or tormenting an animal or abandoning or failing to provide necessary sustenance to an animal under that person's custody or control.”[1] Animal Welfare officers are able to cite residents of Albuquerque, resulting in an up to $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail.[2] Outside of Albuquerque, extreme cases — such as when the animal is seriously injured or killed — are likely to be escalated to misdemeanors and fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to one year.[3]

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New York

Although members of the general public in New York are not empowered to take action when they see an animal trapped in a hot or cold car, police officers or agents of a duly incorporated humane society may do so.[4] New York’s law is unique because it allows agents of a humane society to take action; such agents do not need to be officers of the organization, nor do they need to be authorized to make arrests, as they do in a few other states. Officers who remove an animal from a vehicle are required to place a written notice in or on the vehicle bearing the name of the officer, the department or agency, and the address where the animal can be retrieved.[5]

In addition, the New York law provides that “[a] person shall not confine a companion animal in a motor vehicle in extreme heat or cold without proper ventilation or other protection from such extreme temperatures where such confinement places the companion animal in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury due to exposure to such extreme heat or cold.”[6] Violators will be assessed a fine of between $50 and $100 for the first offense, and between $100 and $250 for subsequent offenses.[7]

Note: The New York law applies to “companion animals,”[8] which is likely coterminous with the colloquial usage of the term “pets.”

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North Carolina

North Carolina currently has no law allowing members of the general public to break into a car to save a suffering animal, but police officers, animal control officers, animal cruelty investigators, firefighters, or rescue squad workers may.[9] Such personnel may use “any reasonable means under the circumstances” to enter the vehicle after making a reasonable effort to locate the owner.[10]

Note: North Carolina's law applies to "every living vertebrate" in the Amphibian, Reptile, Bird, and Mammal classes except human beings.[11] A note at the bottom of the statute also exempts livestock from protection under this law.[12]

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North Dakota

At just three sentences long, North Dakota enacted one of the nation’s simplest laws on this subject. The first section sentence makes it a crime in North Dakota to “leave an animal unattended in a motor vehicle without ensuring that the animal's health and safety is not endangered.”[13] The second sentence prescribes a maximum punishment of a $1,000 fine, with a $1,500 fine and/or 30 days imprisonment for a repeat offender who reoffends within one year.[14] Although members of the general public are not empowered to help a suffering animal, the third sentence provides that police officers may.[15]

Note: A former version of North Dakota’s law applied only to dogs and cats.[16] As it currently stands, the law does not define what is meant by “animal.”

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Ohio

Ohio’s laws grants civil immunity to a member of the general public to break into a car to help a suffering animal, so long as that person follows this process:

  1. Have a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon the circumstances, that entry into the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal.[17]
  2. Determine that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit.[18]
  3. Make a good faith effort to notify a law enforcement officer, a firefighter or call 911. If contact is not possible before entering the vehicle, contact must be made as soon as possible after entering the vehicle.[19] Ohio’s law is unique among states that require a 911-call prior to authorizing a member of the general public to enter a vehicle, as it implicitly recognizes that the rescue is a time-sensitive emergency and that extra moments spent on the phone with a 911 operator can increase the risk to the animal.
  4. Use no more force than reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle.[20] In a classic scenario, this likely means breaking just one window. Breaking more than one window, kicking the fender or keying the car will cause the would-be hero to lose immunity from civil and criminal liability.
  5. Place a written notice on the windshield of the vehicle noting the rescuer's name, telephone number or other contact information, an explanation of why forcible entry was necessary, the location of the animal, and the fact that the authorities have been notified.[21]
  6. Remain with the animal in a safe location until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.[22] The wording of the statute seems to allow, at the least, moving the animal out of the elements and to an adjacent location that is safe for the animal, such as an air conditioned building.

If the person makes further efforts to rescue the animal besides removing it from the vehicle, then he or she could still be civilly liable to the owner for any damage that might result to the animal, under the Ohio law.[23]

Note: As it currently stands, the Ohio law does not define what is meant by “animal.”

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma currently has no law allowing members of the public to break into a vehicle to save a suffering animal. This doesn't mean that pet owners in Oklahoma can get away with animal cruelty and neglect scot-free, however. Under Oklahoma’s animal cruelty statute, “[a]ny person who carries or causes to be carried in or upon any vessel or vehicle, or otherwise, any animal in a cruel or inhuman manner, or so as to produce torture is guilty of a misdemeanor.”[24] A conviction for a misdemeanor in Oklahoma can carry a fine of up to $500 and/or up to one year in jail.[25] In order for a police officer to remove an animal from a vehicle, that officer has to first make an arrest for the crime of cruelty to animals,[26] which can waste valuable time, especially if the animal’s owner is hard to locate.

Note: Oklahoma’s definition of animal is “any mammal, bird, fish, reptile or invertebrate, including wild and domesticated species, other than a human being,”[27] making it one of the most inclusive definitions of animal in the country.

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Oregon

In 2017, the Oregon legislature passed a new bill that provides criminal and civil immunity to members of the general public who break into locked vehicles to save suffering animals.[28] In order to take advantage of the protections of the law, a person must:

  1. Have a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon the circumstances, that entry into the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal.[29]
  2. Determine that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit.[30]
  3. Before or as soon as reasonably practicable after entering the vehicle, notify a law enforcement officer, or call 911.[31] Oregon’s law is unique among states that require a 911-call prior to authorizing a member of the general public to enter a vehicle, as it implicitly recognizes that the rescue is a time-sensitive emergency and that extra moments spent on the phone with a 911 operator can increase the risk to the animal.
  4. Use no more force than reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle.[32] In a classic scenario, this likely means breaking just one window. Breaking more than one window, kicking the fender or keying the car will cause the would-be hero to lose immunity from civil and criminal liability.
  5. Remain with the animal in a safe location, in reasonable proximity to the motor vehicle, until law enforcement, emergency services, or the owner of the vehicle arrives.[33] The wording of the statute seems to allow, at the least, moving the animal out of the elements and to an adjacent location that is safe for the animal, such as an air conditioned building. Additionally, Oregon’s law is unique because it allows the owner to leave as soon as the owner of the vehicle returns, which could be before law enforcement arrives.

Note: The Oregon law only applies to “domestic animals,”[34] which in other areas of Oregon law include livestock animals.[35]

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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania currently has no law specifically prohibiting a pet owner from leaving his animal in a hot car, but a new bill introduced in 2017 in the Pennsylvania legislature is seeking to change that.[36] If passed, the bill would provide punishment for those who leave animals in hot or cold cars, and would allow certain emergency responders to come to the animals’ aid.[37]

The bill provides that “a motor vehicle owner or operator commits a summary offense if the motor vehicle owner or operator confines a dog or cat in an unattended motor vehicle in extreme heat, endangering the dog's or the cat's health and well-being.”[38]

The bill also allows police, humane officers, security guards, volunteer or professional firemen, or other first responders to break into the vehicle in order to remove the dog or cat.[39] Pennsylvania’s bill is unique because it allows security guards, even if employed in the private sector, to assist an animal in need. Immediately after removing the dog or cat, the emergency responder must leave a note in the vehicle or in a conspicuous location stating the responder's name and contact information, and the address of where the dog or cat can be retrieved.[40]

The emergency responder is also required to transport the animal to a veterinary hospital or clinic for treatment and health screening.[41] Pennsylvania’s bill is the only one which requires — rather than simply allows — a responder to seek further medical treatment for the animal after retrieving it from the vehicle. The owner is then responsible for any costs incurred at the veterinary treatment facility, and must pay them before retrieving the animal.[42] If the owner cannot be located, the animal will be transported to an animal shelter or humane society.[43]

The measure is scheduled for vote in the Pennsylvania Senate and House during the 2018 legislative cycle.[44]

Note: The Pennsylvania bill only applies to dogs and cats,[45] and no other type of animal.

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Rhode Island

Although members of the general public in Rhode Island are not empowered to take action when they see an animal trapped in a hot or cold car, police officers, animal control officers, and firefighters may do so.[46] Although the first section of Rhode Island’s law gives firefighters this authority, the next section only specifically allows “[a] law enforcement or animal control officer [to] take all steps that are reasonably necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle.”[47] Some states use the language “no more force than reasonably necessary” to describe the permitted force, while others use the “all steps reasonably necessary” language that Rhode Island uses. It is unclear whether the intent behind the Rhode Island law was to allow police officers and animal control officers to “take all steps reasonably necessary,” but not firefighters, or whether firefighters were simply wrongfully omitted from this section. The third section of the law repeats this omission.[48]

An officer who removes an animal from a vehicle is required to leave a notice in a conspicuous place on or within the vehicle bearing the officer’s name and office and the address of the location where the animal may be retrieved.[49] The owner may retrieve the animal only after paying all of the expenses incurred in the animal’s treatment and care.[50] The owner is also subject to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.[51]

Note: Rhode Island’s law defines “animal” as “every living creature except a human being,”[52] making it one of the most expansive definitions of animal in the country.

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South Carolina

South Carolina law does not allow members of the general public to break into a vehicle to save a suffering animal, and it only allows police to take custody of an animal while an arrest for animal cruelty is being made.[53]

People who leave dogs unattended in hot cars can be punished under at least two sections of South Carolina’s animal cruelty laws. The owner of an animal has an obligation in this state to provide his companion with “the necessities of life,” including “shelter that reasonably may be expected to protect the animal from physical suffering or impairment of health due to exposure to the elements or adverse weather.”[54] A person who fails to provide adequate shelter for his animal may be fined between $200 and $500 and/or imprisoned for up to 30 days.[55]

The owner also has an obligation to provide a dog or cat with “adequate space and ventilation” while it is being transported.[56] A person who fails to provide this can be fined between $200 and $500 and imprisoned for up to 30 days.[57]

Note: Although the first statute discussed here applies to “animals” (“a living vertebrate creature except a homo sapien”),[58] the second statute applies only to dogs and cats.[59]

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[1] N.M.S.A. § 30-18-1(B).

[2] City of Albuquerque HEART Ordinance.

[3] N.M.S.A. § 30-18-1(D) & § 31-19-1(A).

[4] NY Agri. & Mkts. § 353-d(2).

[5] NY Agri. & Mkts. § 353-d(3).

[6] NY Agri. & Mkts. § 353-d(1).

[7] NY Agri. & Mkts. § 353-d(5).

[8] NY Agri. & Mkts. § 353-d.

[9] N.C.G.S.A. § 14-363.3(a).

[10] Id.

[11] N.C.G.S.A. § 14-360(c).

[12] N.C.G.S.A. § 14-363.3(b).

[13] N.D.C.C. § 36-21.2-12 (1).

[14] N.D.C.C. § 36-21.2-12 (2).

[15] N.D.C.C. § 36-21.2-12 (3).

[16] N.D.C.C. § 36-21.1-03(1).

[17] O.R.C. § 959.133(A)(2).

[18] O.R.C. § 959.133(A)(1).

[19] O.R.C. § 959.133(A)(3).

[20] O.R.C. § 959.133(A)(6).

[21] O.R.C. § 959.133(A)(4).

[22] O.R.C. § 959.133(A)(5).

[23] O.R.C. § 959.133(B).

[24] 21 O.S.A. § 1688.

[25] 21 O.S.A. § 2110.

[26] 21 O.S.A. § 1686(C).

[27] 21 O.S.A. § 1680.1.

[28] H.B. 2732 2017 Rᴇɢᴜʟᴀʀ Sᴇꜱꜱɪᴏɴ - Oʀᴇɢᴏɴ Lᴇɢɪꜱʟᴀᴛɪᴠᴇ Iɴꜰᴏʀᴍᴀᴛɪᴏɴ Sʏꜱᴛᴇᴍ, https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Measures/Overview/HB2732.

[29] O.L. Chap. 424(2)(b) (2017).

[30] O.L. Chap. 424(2)(a) (2017).

[31] O.L. Chap. 424(2)(c) (2017).

[32] O.L. Chap. 424(2)(d) (2017).

[33] O.L. Chap. 424(2)(e) (2017).

[34] O.L. Chap. 424 (2017).

[35] 2015 O.R.S. § 607.365.

[36] Open States, Pᴇɴɴꜱʏʟᴠᴀɴɪᴀ Sᴇɴᴀᴛᴇ Bɪʟʟ 636, https://openstates.org/pa/bills/2017-2018/SB636/.

[37] Penn. S.B. 636 (2017).

[38] Penn. S.B. 636(1)(1) (2017).

[39] Penn. S.B. 636(1)(2) (2017).

[40] Penn. S.B. 636(1)(4)(i) (2017).

[41] Penn. S.B. 636(1)(4)(ii) (2017).

[42] Id.

[43] Id.

[44] Open States, Pᴇɴɴꜱʏʟᴠᴀɴɪᴀ Sᴇɴᴀᴛᴇ Bɪʟʟ 636, https://openstates.org/pa/bills/2017-2018/SB636/.

[45] Penn. S.B. 636 (2017).

[46] R.I.G.L. § 4-1-3.2(a)

[47] R.I.G.L. § 4-1-3.2(b)

[48] R.I.G.L. § 4-1-3.2(c)

[49] R.I.G.L. § 4-1-3.2(d)

[50] Id.

[51] R.I.G.L. § 4-1-3.2(f)

[52] R.I.G.L. § 4-1-1(a)(1).

[53] S.C.C. § 47-1-120.

[54] S.C.C. § 47-1-70.

[55] S.C.C. § 47-1-70(B).

[56] S.C.C. § 47-1-200(A).

[57] S.C.C. § 47-1-200(C).

[58] S.C.C. § 47-1-10.

[59] S.C.C. § 47-1-200.