Is smashing a car window to save a pet illegal?

While it’s illegal to leave a dog or cat in a parked car, Maryland is one state where it’s illegal to smash a car window to rescue an overheated pet.

Like children, hot cars are equally lethal to animals. In fact, The Des Moines Register reported that three dogs died from heat exposure over the weekend during a dog show in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Despite this, WMAR pointed out that Maryland law doesn’t protect Good Samaritans who take matters into their own hands.

The General Assembly of Maryland (GAM) says that law enforcement officers, public safety employees, and fire rescue volunteers are allowed to use “reasonable force” to save an animal.

Shockingly, Maryland isn’t the only state with this type of law on the books. In addition to the Old Line State, about 19 states only allow law enforcement to break into a vehicle to rescue an animal, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Making this even more confusing is the fact that “hot car” laws in states like Colorado, Maryland, and Minnesota are limited to cats and dogs. In some states, hot car laws apply based on the animal’s size (South Dakota), whether they’re domesticated (Indiana, Florida, and Wisconsin) or if they’re a companion animal (Nevada).

Fortunately, eleven states (Alabama has pending legislation) currently protect private citizens who decide to take action.

While ALDF executive director Stephen Wells said it’s unlikely for offenders to face criminal charges, some steps can be taken to decrease the likelihood of being prosecuted.

“It’s good to have a witness, have somebody there. Make sure you’re prepared to take care of that dog once you get them out,” he told the station. Do the least amount of damage possible and just make sure you don’t risk the dog’s or anyone else’s safety while you’re doing that.”