Is it illegal to leave your dog in a parked car?
The answer to this question, of course, depends on in the state in which you live. Actually, 31 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.
Most laws provide that the animal must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle. For a person to violate the law, the conditions in the motor vehicle have to endanger the animal's life. Some of the statutes specifically state that extreme hot or cold temperatures, lack of adequate ventilation, or failing to provide proper food or drink meet this definition. Other laws simply state that the conditions pose an imminent threat to the animal's health or safety. Also, some states only cover dogs and cats while other states define "animal" more broadly.
States with such laws typically allow rescue of the animal from the vehicle. This may involve forcibly entering the motor vehicle to remove the trapped animal. Some states limit their "rescue" laws to law enforcement, firefighters, animal control, first responders, or authorized humane officers. Recently, about 14 states have enacted laws that allow any person to rescue a distressed animal (AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, IN, KS, LA, MA, OH, OR, TN, VT, and WI). These laws functions to limit the civil or criminal liability of the person for damages resulting from the forcible entry of the vehicle. Indiana is the first and only state to require the person who forcibly enters a vehicle to rescue an animal to pay half the damages. West Virginia and New Jersey are the only states that criminalize the act of leaving a pet unattended under dangerous conditions without providing a rescue and immunity provision for anyone.
With these new rescue laws, most require would-be rescuers to follow a number of steps. For instance, these laws may require that people first ensure the vehicle is locked and forcible entry is the only means to retrieve the animal. The person may be required to first call 911 or local enforcement before entering the vehicle. The law may require that a note is left indicating the safe location of the animal and that the person remain on scene until law enforcement or other first responders arrive.
Penalties for leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle under dangerous conditions vary from state to state. A few states make it an immediate fine like other civil infractions. The rest of the states assign a misdemeanor penalty, with fines ranging from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Some list possible jail time or imprisonment. New Hampshire makes a second conviction a felony offense.
While not all states have laws that address animals in parked vehicles, numerous local ordinances prohibit this, and more may be enacted. Even without a state or local law, this action could still constitute cruelty under some circumstances. In fact, in the Texas case of Lopez v. State, the defendant left his dog in his car on a hot day to go and watch a movie in a theater. He was ultimately convicted under the state's anti-cruelty law. Notably, Texas does not have a statute that specifically addresses dogs left in parked vehicles.
Citation and Link
What is Prohibited?
Who Can Rescue animal? Steps to Immunity?
Under A.R.S. § 13-2910:
Unattended and confined in a motor vehicle and physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result
An animal ("animal" means a mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian)
For the purposes of 12-558.02, "domestic animal" means a dog, a cat or another animal that is domesticated and kept as a household pet.
Under A.R.S. § 13-2910:
A peace officer, animal control enforcement agent or animal control enforcement deputy may use reasonable force to open a vehicle to rescue an animal.
Under A.R.S. 12-558.02 (2017):
A person who uses reasonable force to enter a locked and unattended motor vehicle to remove a confined domestic animal is not liable for any damages in a civil action if all of the following apply:
Class 1 misdemeanor
|California||Leave or confine an animal in any unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.||An animal|
Peace officer, firefighter, humane officer, animal control officer, or other emergency responder:
A peace officer, firefighter, humane officer, animal control officer, or other emergency responder is authorized to take all steps that are reasonably necessary for the removal of an animal from a motor vehicle.
Must leave written notice bearing his or her name and office, and the address of the location where the animal can be claimed.
In 2016, changes were made to the law that allow any person to take reasonable steps necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle if the person holds a reasonable belief that the animal's safety is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause suffering, disability, or death to the animal.
Immunity for civil liability
A new law (§ 43.100) effective on Jan. 1, 2017 states that there is no civil liability for property damage to a motor vehicle if the damage was caused by a person rescuing an animal under Section 597.7 of the Penal Code.
First conviction: fine not exceeding $100 per animal.
If the animal suffers great bodily injury, a fine not exceeding $500, imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 6 months, or by both.
Any subsequent violation of this section, regardless of injury to the animal, punishable by a fine not exceeding $500, imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by both.
|Colorado||"Animal" defined as cat or dog. Law specifically excludes livestock|
A person is immune from civil or criminal liability for property damage resulting from forcible entry into locked vehicle if all of the following occurs:
Also, under 18-1-706.5, a person is justified and exempt from criminal liability for criminal mischief, criminal trespass, or criminal tampering involving property if such action occurred when he or she rendered emergency assistance to an at-risk person or animal in a locked vehicle, provided the person rendering assistance acted in accordance with the provisions of section 13-21-108.4.
|Connecticut||C. G. S. A. § 52-557u||"Animal" which is undefined in the law|
A person who enters the passenger motor vehicle of another, including entry by force, to remove a child or animal from the passenger motor vehicle shall have an affirmative defense against any civil damages or criminal penalties resulting from the acts or omissions by such person in removing the child or animal from the passenger motor vehicle, if such person:
(1) Has a reasonable belief such entry is necessary to remove the child or animal from imminent danger of serious bodily injury;
(2) Uses no more force than reasonably necessary under the circumstances;
(3) Reports the entry and the circumstances surrounding such entry to a law enforcement agency or other public safety agency within a reasonable time;
(4) Takes reasonable steps to ensure the safety, health and well-being of the child or animal after removing the child or animal from the passenger motor vehicle.
|Delaware||11 Del.C. § 1325(b)(6)||Confining an animal unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in which the temperature is either so high or so low as to endanger the health or safety of the animal.||An animal (does not include fish, crustacea or molluska)|
A law enforcement officer, animal control officer, animal cruelty investigator, or firefighter who has probable cause to believe that an animal is confined in a motor vehicle under conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal may use reasonable force to remove the animal left in the vehicle in violation of this provision.
A person removing an animal under this section shall use reasonable means to contact the owner. If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the animal to an animal shelter and must leave written notice bearing his or her name and office, and the address of the location where the animal can be claimed.
The owner of the vehicle from which the animal is rescued and the owner of the animal rescued are not liable for injuries suffered by the person rescuing the animal.
Class A Misdemeanor
|Florida||West's F. S. A. § 768.139||“Domestic animal” means a dog, cat, or other animal that is domesticated and may be kept as a household pet. The term does not include livestock or other farm animals.|
A person who enters a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage if the person:
|Illinois||510 ILCS 70/7.1||Confine any animal in a motor vehicle in such a manner that places it in a life or health threatening situation by exposure to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold, without proper ventilation or other protection from such heat or cold.||Any animal||An animal control officer, law enforcement officer, or Department investigator has authority to enter such motor vehicle by any reasonable means under the circumstances after making a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person responsible.|| |
A person convicted of violating this Section is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.
A second or subsequent violation is a Class B misdemeanor.
|Indiana||I.C. 34-30-30-1 - 4|
"Domestic animal" means dog, cat, or other vertebrate animal that is kept or intended as a household pet.
Does not include livestock
A person who forcibly enters a motor vehicle to remove a domestic animal from the motor vehicle is liable to the owner or lessee for one-half of the damage caused by the forcible entry (unless liability is waived).
The person is immune from other criminal and civil liability from the forcible entry.
To qualify for immunity under new law, the following conditions must be met:
Note that the following people are NOT liable to the motor vehicle owner if acting in course of employment to remove animal:
|Kansas||K. S. A. 60-5401||"Domestic animal" means a dog, cat or other animal that is domesticated and may be kept as a household pet. Domestic animal does not include livestock, as defined in K.S.A. 47-1001 or other farm animals.||A person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage to the motor vehicle if such person:|
(1) determines the motor vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method;
(2) has a good faith and reasonable belief that entry into the motor vehicle is necessary because the vulnerable person or domestic animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm;
(3) ensures that law enforcement is notified or calls 911 before entering the motor vehicle or immediately thereafter;
(4) uses no more force to enter the motor vehicle and remove the vulnerable person or domestic animal than is necessary; and
(5) remains with the vulnerable person or domestic animal in a safe location until law enforcement or a first responder arrives.
|Louisiana||LSA-R.S. 37:1738.1||"Animal” means any cat or dog kept for pleasure, companionship, or other purposes that are not purely commercial|
There shall be no liability on the part of a person for property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle, if the damage was caused while the person was rescuing an animal in distress.
The person must first do the following:
(1) make a good-faith attempt to locate the owner before forcibly entering the vehicle (based on the circumstances);
(2) contact local law enforcement/911 before forcibly entering;
(3) determine the vehicle is locked and has a good-faith belief there is no other reasonable means for the animal to be removed;
(4) believe that removal of the animal is necessary because the animal is in imminent danger of death;
(5) use no more force than necessary to rescue the animal;
(6) place a notice on the windshield providing details including contact information and the location of the animal; and
(7) remain with the animal in a safe location reasonably close to the vehicle until first responders arrive.
|Maine||7 MRSA § 4019||Animal's safety, health or well-being appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold or lack of adequate ventilation and the conditions could reasonably be expected to cause extreme suffering or death.|
A law enforcement officer, humane agent, animal control officer, firefighter, first responder, or licensed security guard may take all steps that are reasonably necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle if the animal's safety, health or well-being appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold or lack of adequate ventilation and the conditions could reasonably be expected to cause extreme suffering or death.
Must leave written notice bearing the officer's or agent's name and office and the address of the location where the animal may be claimed.
|While a penalty is not provided in the law, the owner may claim an animal removed from a vehicle only after payment of all charges that have accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment and impoundment of the animal.|
|Maryland||MD Code, Transportation,§ 21-1004.1||Standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.||Cat or dog|
These parties may use reasonable force to remove from a motor vehicle a cat or dog left in the vehicle in violation of the provisions if person is:
Per District Court of Maryland District page that outlines citations for violations of Motor Vehicle Code: Fine of $70.00 (see § 21-1004.1 on page 55).
|Massachusetts||M.G.L.A. 140 § 174F||A person shall not confine an animal in a motor vehicle in a manner that could reasonably be expected to threaten the health of the animal due to exposure to extreme heat or cold.||An animal|
Removal by animal control/law enforcement/firefighter:
An animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who removes or otherwise retrieves an animal from a motor vehicle is immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.
Removal by other persons:
A person other than an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter must first make reasonable efforts to locate motor vehicle's owner. Then, he or she must do or determine the following before removing an animal in immediate danger from vehicle:
A person who removes an animal from a motor vehicle under these circumstances is immune from criminal or civil liability resulting from removal.
|Civil infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $150 for a first offense, by a fine of not more than $300 for a second offense and by a fine of not more than $500 for a third or subsequent offense.|
|Minnesota||M.S.A. § 346.57||Unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety.|
Cat or dog
The following parties may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation of the law:
A person removing a dog or a cat under this subdivision shall use reasonable means to contact the owner.
If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the dog or cat to an animal shelter.
|Petty misdemeanor: a person who violates this subdivision is subject to a fine of $25.|
|Nevada||N.R.S. 574.195||Unattended in a parked or standing motor vehicle during a period of extreme heat or cold or in any other manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.||Cat or dog|
These individuals may use any force that is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances to remove from a motor vehicle a cat or dog:
The above individual(s) who removed the cat or dog may take any action relating to the cat or dog specified in that section and is entitled to any lien or immunity from liability that is applicable pursuant to that section.
A cat or dog that is removed from a motor vehicle under the law is deemed to be an animal being treated cruelly for the purposes of NRS 574.055.
A person who violates a provision of subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor.
|New Hampshire||N.H. Rev. Stat. 644:8-aa||It shall be cruelty to confine an animal in a motor vehicle or other enclosed space in which the temperature is either so high or so low as to cause serious harm to the animal.||"Animal" means a domestic animal, household pet, or wild animal held in captivity||Any law enforcement officer or agent of a licensed humane organization may take action necessary to rescue a confined animal endangered by extreme temperatures, and to remove the threat of further serious harm.||Misdemeanor as set forth in RSA 644:8 (misdemeanor for a first offense, and of a class B felony for a second or subsequent offense).|
N.J.S.A. 4:22-26 (subsection (c))
Unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature.
Also note that per NJSA 4:22-17.5(c)(3), proper shelter for a dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal does not include the inside of a vehicle if the dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal is kept in the vehicle in a manner or for a length of time that a person should reasonably know poses an adverse risk to the health or safety of the animal. Section NJSA 4:22-17.4(a) also prohibits confinement of a dog, domestic companion animal, or service animal in any structure, room, area, or container that does not comply with the standards and requirements of proper shelter as set forth in the act.
|A living animal or creature||While New Jersey's law does not specifically speak to rescue of pets from unattended vehicles during dangerous conditions or immunity for such actions, humane law enforcement or other law enforcement may enter private property and "take physical custody of the animal, if the officer has a reasonable basis to believe that , due to a violation of P.L.2017, c. 189 (C.4:22-17.1 et seq.), immediate assistance is required to protect or preserve the animal's life or prevent injury to the animal." NJSA 4:22-17.7(b).|
Shall forfeit and pay a sum to be sued for and recovered, with costs, in a civil action by any person in the name of the municipality or county wherein the defendant resides or where the offense was committed:
a sum of not less than $500 nor more than $2,000.
|New York||NY Agri. & Mkts. § 353-d||Confined in motor vehicle in extreme heat or cold without proper ventilation or other protection where confinement places companion animal in imminent danger of death or serious injury due to exposure.||Companion animal|
Police, peace officer, or peace officer acting as agent of humane society may take necessary steps to remove animal from vehicle.
Will not be civilly or criminally liable if actions taken in reasonably good faith.
Any person who knowingly violates this section is guilty of a violation:
|North Carolina||N.C.G.S.A. § 14-363.3||An animal that is confined in a motor vehicle under conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or under other endangering conditions.|
As used in this section, the term “animal” includes every living vertebrate in the classes Amphibia, Reptilia, Aves, and Mammalia except human beings.
Nothing in this section shall be construed to apply to the transportation of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, poultry, or other livestock.
|Any animal control officer, animal cruelty investigator appointed under G.S. 19A-45, law enforcement officer, firefighter, or rescue squad worker, who has probable cause to believe that an animal is confined in a motor vehicle under conditions that are likely to cause suffering, injury, or death to the animal due to heat, cold, lack of adequate ventilation, or under other endangering conditions, may enter the motor vehicle by any reasonable means under the circumstances after making a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other person responsible for the animal.|
|North Dakota||Unattended in a stationary or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the animal's health or safety.|
Dog or cat
|A law enforcement officer may use reasonable means to enter a motor vehicle and remove an animal left in violation of this section.||Guilty of an infraction|
|Ohio||R.C. § 959.133||Animal|
A person shall be immune from civil liability for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing an animal from the vehicle if the person does all of the following:
|Oregon||O. R. S. § 30.813||Domestic Animal|
A person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, to remove domestic animal left unattended in the motor vehicle is not subject to criminal or civil liability if the person:
|Pennsylvania||42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8340.3||Dog or cat|
No law enforcement officer, animal control officer, humane society police officer or emergency responder, or the employer of a law enforcement officer, humane society police officer or emergency responder, shall be liable for damage to a motor vehicle or the contents thereof caused by entry into the motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a dog or cat, if that individual:
(1) Has a good-faith, reasonable belief that the dog or cat is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from the motor vehicle.
(2) Makes a reasonable effort to locate the driver of the motor vehicle prior to entry.
(3) Takes reasonable steps to ensure or restore the well-being of the dog or cat.
(4) Uses no more force than necessary under the circumstances to enter the motor vehicle.
(5) Leaves notice on or in the motor vehicle stating the reason entry was made, the name of the person and of the person's employer, a telephone number and, if possible, the location where the dog or cat may be retrieved.
|Rhode Island||Gen. Laws, 1956, § 4-1-3.2||No owner or person shall confine any animal in a motor vehicle which is done in a manner that places the animal in a life threatening or extreme health threatening situation by exposing it to a prolonged period of extreme heat or cold, without proper ventilation or other protection from such heat or cold.||“Animal” and “animals” means every living creature except a human being|| |
In order to protect the health and safety of an animal, an animal control officer, law enforcement officer or fire fighter who has probable cause to believe that this section is being violated shall have the authority to enter such motor vehicle by any reasonable means necessary under the circumstances, after making a reasonable effort to locate the owner or other responsible person.
A law enforcement or animal control officer may take all steps that are reasonably necessary to remove an animal from a motor vehicle if the animal's health, safety, or wellbeing appears to be in immediate danger from heat, cold, or lack of adequate ventilation and the conditions could reasonably be expected to cause extreme suffering or death.
|Any person who knowingly violates this section shall be punished by imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or by a fine of no more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both.|
|South Dakota||S D C L § 40-1-36||Unattended in a standing or parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of such animal.||Cat, dog, or other small animal||Reasonable force may be used to remove such animal by any peace officer or agent or officer of any humane society.|
|Tennessee||T. C. A. § 29-34-209||Animal||A person whose conduct conforms to the requirements of this Act shall be immune from civil liability for any damage resulting from the forcible entry of a motor vehicle for the purpose of removing a minor or an animal from the vehicle.|
|Vermont||Unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that would endanger the health or safety of the animal.||An animal|
Under 13 V.S.A. § 386:
Any humane officer or member of a fire and rescue service may use reasonable force to remove any such animal from a motor vehicle.
Under 12 V.S.A. § 5784 (2016):
A person who forcibly enters a motor vehicleto remove an animal from shall not be subject to civil liability for damages arising from the forcible entry if the person:
|Failure to comply with subsection (a) of this section is a violation of subdivision 352(3) of this title (guilty of cruelty with a sentence of imprisonment of not more than one year, or a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or both).|
|Virginia||Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6504.1||Companion animal||No law-enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, or animal control officer who in good faith forcibly enters a motor vehicle in order to remove an unattended companion animal that is at risk of serious bodily injury or death shall be liable for any property damage to the vehicle entered or injury to the animal resulting from such forcible entry and removal of the animal, unless such property damage or injury results from gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.|
|Washington||RCWA 16.52.340||Leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water.||Any animal||An animal control officer or law enforcement officer who reasonably believes that an animal is suffering or is likely to suffer harm from exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation, or lack of necessary water is authorized to enter a vehicle or enclosed space to remove an animal by any means reasonable under the circumstances if no other person is present in the immediate area who has access to the vehicle or enclosed space and who will immediately remove the animal.||Class 2 civil infraction|
|West Virginia||W. Va. Code, § 61-8-19||Unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result.||An animal||None||Guilty of a misdemeanor; upon conviction shall be fined not less than $300 nor more than $2000 or confined in jail not more than 6 months, or both.|
|Wisconsin||W. S. A. 895.484||“Domestic animal” means a dog, cat, or other animal that is domesticated and kept as a household pet, but does not include a farm animal.||A person is immune from civil liability for property damage or injury that results from his or her forcible entry into a vehicle if:|