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A recently-passed law in Ohio allows passers-by to break car windows to rescue children and dogs from hot cars. But many people may not be sure what to do in the event that they see a dog locked in a car in sweltering summer temperatures. Breaking the window could lead to criminal prosecution in some cases, but leaving the dog to succumb to heat stroke is not an option. Here’s what how to responsibly respond if you see a dog in a hot car this summer.
Call Local Police or 911
The first thing you should do is call local law enforcement or 911 and inform them of the situation. Even if they can’t send an officer right away, informing them that you’ve found a dog trapped in a hot car establishes a record of communication and due process that may help your case in the event of a lawsuit (remember, we’re not lawyers, so we’re not offering legal advice, just relating what we’ve observed in similar situations).
Check for Signs of Heatstroke
Inform the police or 911 dispatcher of any signs that the dog may be experiencing heat stroke. These symptoms may include:
If Safe, Try to Find the Car’s Owner
Don’t leave the site of the vehicle, but make an attempt to find the car’s owner. If the car is parked in a commercial parking lot, send a friend or passerby into the store to ask the store manager to announce a description of the vehicle. If you cannot locate the car’s owner and the dog’s condition continues to deteriorate, you may need to consider breaking the window.
If You Need to Break the Window…
Here’s where it gets tricky. Breaking a window or picking a lock on a car door could be criminal offenses. But your conscience demands you help the dog. In this case, take the following steps:
Don’t Leave the Scene
If you’ve broken a window and removed a dog from a hot car, do not leave the scene until police have arrived and taken your statement.