What to do if you see an animal in a hot car

Call 911 immediately if you see an animal in distress

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Local police departments are warning residents about a post being shared on Facebook with false information regarding the state’s law on leaving animals in hot cars.

It is illegal in Massachusetts to leave an animal in a car under circumstances that could “reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat or cold.” It’s also, however, against the law to forcibly enter someone else’s car in efforts to save an animal without following the proper steps.

“You don’t want to be charged criminally for doing what you thought was the right thing,” Charlton police wrote in a Facebook post.

If you see an animal left behind in a car, it needs to look in immediate distress to consider saving it.  You must first do everything you can to find the owner.  Then, call the police to let them know you are about to break into someone’s car to save an animal.

“If you think the animal is in immediate distress, certainly go in and get the animal, and call the police as soon as possible. If you think you can wait, obviously, we would prefer to go in,” Northampton Police Capt. John Cartledge said.

If you’ve taken these steps, you cannot be criminally or civily charged for breaking in that car to get the animal out.  Captain Cartledge says police will also record the temperature of that day to determine if the heat or cold put that animal in distress.

If you leave your animal in a hot car, you’ll be fined up to $150 for the first offense.

The law states that a person other than an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or firefighter must take the following steps before entering someone else’s car:

After making reasonable efforts to locate a motor vehicle’s owner, a person other than an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter shall not enter a motor vehicle to remove an animal to protect the health and safety of that animal in immediate danger unless the person: (i) notifies law enforcement or calls 911 before entering the vehicle; (ii) determines that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no other reasonable means for exit and uses not more force than reasonably necessary to enter the motor vehicle and remove the animal; (iii) has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon known circumstances, that entry into the vehicle is reasonably necessary to prevent imminent danger or harm to the animal; and (iv) remains with the animal in a safe location in reasonable proximity to the vehicle until law enforcement or another first responder arrives.

To read more about the law, click here.