Dogs in Hot Cars: South Dakota - Wyoming

Author: Simon Isham (3L) 

Post 5 of 5

This is the 5th, and final, post in the Dogs in Hot Cars series written by 3L Simon Isham. We hope you have enjoyed this series! 

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South Dakota

Like it’s neighbor to the north, South Dakota manages a very simple statute regarding leaving animals unattended in vehicles. The first sentence prohibits leaving an animal unattended in a vehicle “in a manner that endangers the health or safety of such animal.”[1] The second sentence authorizes police officers and agents of a humane society to use reasonable force to remove an animal from a vehicle.[2] The third sentence provides the civil and criminal immunity language.[3] The section does not prescribe a punishment for the negligent owner.

Note: In South Dakota, “animal” means “any mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, or fish, except humans.”[4] This definition does not exclude common invertebrate pets such as jellyfish, tarantulas, or hermit crabs, nor does it exclude livestock, making it one of the most inclusive definitions of “animal” in the country.

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 Tennessee

Tennessee’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.[5]
  2. Determine that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit.[6]
  3. Contact a police officer, firefighter, or 911 operator.[7]
  4. Use no more force than reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle.[8] 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, contact information, an explanation of why forcible entry was necessary, the location of the animal, and the fact that the authorities have been notified.[9]
  6. Remain with the animal in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until law enforcement or another emergency responder arrives.[10] The wording of the statute seems to allow, at the least, moving the animal 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 Tennessee law.[11]

Note: Tennessee Law defines “animal” as “means a domesticated living creature or a wild creature previously captured.”[12] Since any wild creature is necessarily captured if it is trapped in a vehicle, the Tennessee law provides for one of the most expansive definitions of animal in the country.

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Texas

Texas 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 Texas can get away with animal cruelty and neglect scot-free, however. Under Texas law, a person is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor if they “transport[] or confine[] an animal in a cruel manner.”[13] Class A misdemeanors in Texas are punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or a jail term of up to one year.[14]

Note: In Texas, “‘Animal’ means a domesticated living creature, including any stray or feral cat or dog, and a wild living creature previously captured. The term does not include an uncaptured wild living creature or a livestock animal.”[15]

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Utah

Utah 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 Utah can get away with animal cruelty and neglect scot-free, however. Under Utah law, a person is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor if they “fail[] to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person's custody,”[16] where “shelter” is defined to mean “adequate protection, including appropriate shelter, against extreme weather conditions.”[17] Class B misdemeanors in Utah are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a jail term of up to six months.[18]

Note: In Utah, “animal” has one of the most complex definitions under this law. An animal is a “live, nonhuman vertebrate creature,”[19] but does not include creatures being cared for “in accordance with accepted animal husbandry practices,”[20] zoo animals,[21] hunting dogs or animals used to train hunting dogs,[22] circus animals or animals that are a part of travelling exhibits,[23] rodeo animals being cared for “in accordance with accepted rodeo practices,”[24] livestock being cared for “in accordance with … customary farming practices,”[25] or wildlife “if the conduct toward the wildlife is in accordance with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping practices.”[26] Although many working animals are exempted from the protections of this law due to the jobs they fulfill in society, the Utah definition of animal is still more broad than “domestic animals” or “dogs and cats.”

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Vermont

Vermont’s laws grants civil immunity to a member of the general public who breaks 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.[27]
  2. Determine that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit.[28]
  3. Contact a police officer, firefighter, or 911 operator.[29]
  4. Use no more force than reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle.[30] 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 that the authorities have been notified and specifying the location of the animal.[31]
  6. Remain with the animal in a safe location, reasonably close to the vehicle, until law enforcement or another emergency responder arrives.[32] The wording of the statute seems to allow, at the least, moving the animal to an adjacent location such as an air conditioned building.

 

A person who leaves an animal unattended in a vehicle can face a fine of up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.[33] Repeat offenders may face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or imprisonment for up to two years.[34]

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Virginia

Virginia 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, firefighters, or emergency medical services personnel may.[35] Such personnel are granted civil immunity if they: “in good faith forcibly enter[] a motor vehicle in order to remove an unattended companion animal that is at risk of serious bodily injury or death … unless such property damage or injury results from gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.”[36]

Note: In Virginia, "animal" means “any nonhuman vertebrate species except fish.”[37]

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Washington

Washington currently has no law allowing members of the general public to break into a car to save a suffering animal, but police officers and animal control officers may.[38] Washington’s law does not allow for firefighters or other first responders to help in this kind of situation. Washington’s law also specifically lays out that officers are not allowed to break into the vehicle if there is a person present in the immediate area who has access to the vehicle.[39]

Owner’s who leave dogs in unattended vehicles may be fined up to $125.[40]

In Washington, “animal” means “any nonhuman mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.”[41]

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West Virginia

 West Virginia currently has no law allowing members of the public to break into a vehicle to save a suffering dog or cat, nor can law enforcement. This doesn't mean that pet owners in West Virginia can get away with animal cruelty and neglect scot-free, however. Under West Virginia law, a person is guilty of animal cruelty if they “leave an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result.”[42] A person found guilty of violating this statute will be fined between $300 and $2,000 and/or sentenced to up to six months in jail.[43]

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Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s laws grants civil immunity to a member of the general public who breaks 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.[44]
  2. Determine that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit.[45]
  3. Contact a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical services, or 911 operator.[46]
  4. Use no more force than reasonably necessary to enter the vehicle.[47] 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 until law enforcement or another emergency responder arrives.[48] The wording of the statute seems to allow, at the least, moving the animal to an adjacent location such as an air conditioned building.
  6. Leave a note for the owner of the vehicle.[49] If the rescuer must leave the scene before the owner of the animal returns, the rescuer must leave a note including his or her name, phone number, mailing address, reason the vehicle was broken into, and the location, if known, of the animal.

Note: In Wisconsin, the animals covered by this law are “a dog, cat, or other animal that is domesticated and kept as a household pet,” but not “a farm animal.”[50]

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Wyoming

 

Wyoming 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 Wyoming can get away with animal cruelty and neglect scot-free, however. Under Wyoming law, a person is guilty of animal cruelty if he knowingly “[c]arries an animal in a manner that poses undue risk of injury or death, or if he “has the charge and custody of any animal and unnecessarily fails to provide it with the proper food, drink or protection from the weather, or cruelly abandons the animal, or in the case of immediate, obvious, serious illness or injury, fails to provide the animal with appropriate care.”[51] A person found guilty of violating this statute will be fined up to $750 and/or sentenced to up to six months in jail.[52] A subsequent offense may result in an up to $5,000 fine and/or up to 1 year in jail.[53]

[1] S.D.C.L. § 40-1-36.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] S.D.C.L. § 40-1-1(2).

[5] T.C.A. § 29-34-209(b)(2).

[6] T.C.A. § 29-34-209(b)(1).

[7] T.C.A. § 29-34-209(b)(3).

[8] T.C.A. § 29-34-209(b)(6).

[9] T.C.A. § 29-34-209(b)(4).

[10] T.C.A. § 29-34-209(b)(5).

[11] T.C.A. § 29-34-209(c).

[12] T.C.A. § 39-14-201(1).

[13] V.T.C.A. § 42.09(a)(4).

[14] T.P.C. § 12.02.

[15] V.T.C.A. § 42.092(2).

[16] U.C.A. § 76-9-301(2)(a).

[17] U.C.A. § 76-9-301(1)(g)(ii).

[18] Utah Courts, Uᴛᴀʜ Sᴛᴀᴛᴇ Cᴏᴜʀᴛꜱ - Cʀɪᴍɪɴᴀʟ Pᴇɴᴀʟᴛɪᴇꜱ, https://www.utcourts.gov/howto/criminallaw/penalties.asp.

[19] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(i).

[20] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(A)(I).

[21] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(A)(II)(Aa).

[22] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(A)(II)(Bb).

[23] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(A)(II)(Cc).

[24] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(B).

[25] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(C).

[26] U.C.A.  § 76-9-301(1)(b)(ii)(D).

[27] 12 V.S.A. § 5784(2).

[28] 12 V.S.A. § 5784(1).

[29] 12 V.S.A. § 5784(3).

[30] 12 V.S.A. § 5784(6).

[31] 12 V.S.A. § 5784(5).

[32] 12 V.S.A. § 5784(4).

[33] 13 V.S.A. § 386 & 12 V.S.A. § 353(a)(1).

[34] Id.

[35] V.C.A. § 3.2-6504.1

[36] Id.

[37] V.C.A.§ 3.2-6500.

[38] R.W.C.A. § 16.52.340(2).

[39] Id.

[40] R.W.C.A § 16.52.340(1) & R.W.C.A. § 7.80.120(1)(b).

[41] R.W.C.A § 16.52.011(2)(b).

[42] W.V.C. § 61-8-19(a)(1)(E).

[43] W.V.C. § 61-8-19(a)(2).

[44] W.S.A. § 895.484(2)(a).

[45] W.S.A. § 895.484(2)(b).

[46] W.S.A. § 895.484(2)(c).

[47] W.S.A. § 895.484(2)(e).

[48] W.S.A. § 895.484(2)(d).

[49] W.S.A. § 895.484(2)(f).

[50] W.S.A. § 895.484(1)(a).

[51] W.S. § 1977 § 6-3-203(a)(3) & W.S. § 1977 § 6-3-203(b).

[52] W.S. § 1977 § 6-3-203(e).

[53] Id.