New TN law allows people to break into a car to save an animal

A new Tennessee law now allows people to break into cars to save animals.

The law took effect this month and is an extension of Tennessee’s ‘Good Samaritan Law’– which allows people to forcibly enter a vehicle to save a child.

The law protects a person that breaks into a car to save an animal’s life from being held at fault for damages, but specific steps must be taken prior to a citizen taking action.

Language from TN ST § 29–34–209 states a person who forcibly breaks into a motor vehicle to save a minor or animal immunity from civil liability if the person:

(1) Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the vehicle;
(2) Has a good faith belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the minor or animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from the vehicle and, based upon the circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is a reasonable one;
(3) Has contacted either the local law enforcement agency, the fire department, or a 911 operator prior to forcibly entering the vehicle;
(4) Places a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with the person’s contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the minor or animal, and the fact that the authorities have been notified;
(5) Remains with the minor or animal in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until law enforcement, fire, or another emergency responder arrives; and
(6) Used no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the child or animal from the vehicle than was necessary under the circumstances.

Washington County Animal Shelter Director Debbie Dobbs asked people to be sure the pet is in danger before intervening by checking to see if the car’s air conditioning is running.

“If you look in the window and the dog is panting profusely, very stressed, hyper, having trouble cooling itself, then the dog’s in distress,” Dobbs said.

Dobbs also warned folks to pay special attention to pets during the summer months, adding car temperatures can rise to a level that can cause dogs to suffer a heat stroke in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

“We want people to be aware that this is a very serious danger to these dogs that are left in a vehicle and die of heat stroke so fast,” Dobbs said.

So far, 16 states have laws on the books prohibiting keeping an animal in an unattended car.

Copyright 2015 WJHL.  All Rights Reserved.

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