Full Title Name:  Table of State Laws that Protect Animals Left in Parked Vehicles

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Rebecca F. Wisch Publish Year:  2015 Place of Publication:  Michigan State University College of Law Primary Citation:  Animal Legal & Historical Center
Summary: This table describes the laws that concern leaving a companion animal unattended in a parked vehicle. Approximately 17 states have laws that regulate this practice. Most of these laws provide that the animal must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle. Further, the laws add that in order for a person to violate the law, the conditions have to endanger the animal's life. Under some state laws, law enforcement or other individuals are allowed to rescue animals left under extreme conditions.

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, only 16 states (AZ, CA, IL, ME, MD, MN, NC, NV, NH, NJ, NY, ND, RI, SD, VT, and WV) have statutes that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in confined vehicle.  The next factor important to the question is the condition under which the the animal is left in the vehicle.  Most of these laws provide that the animal must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle.  Further, the laws add that in order for a person to violate the law, the conditions 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 are more vague and just require that the conditions are such that physical injury or death is likely to result.

While not all states have laws that address animals in parked vehicles, numerous local ordinances prohibit this, and more may be enacted.  It is critical then that owners are aware of their local laws concerning this subject.  Even with out 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.  Below is a table that describes these laws by outlining the major concerns within the laws.

StateCitation and LinkAnimals CoveredWhat is ProhibitedPenaltyRescue Provisions
Alabama          
Alaska          
Arizona A.R.S. § 13-2910 An animal ("animal" means a mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian). Unattended and confined in a motor vehicle and physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result. Class 1 misdemeanor A peace officer, animal control enforcement agent or animal control enforcement deputy may use reasonable force to open a vehicle to rescue an animal.
Arkansas          
California Cal. Penal Code § 597.7 An animal 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.

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.

Peace officer, humane officer, or animal control officer 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.

Colorado          
Connecticut          
Delaware          
D.C.          
Florida          
Georgia          
Hawaii          
Idaho          
Illinois 510 ILCS 70/7.1 Any animal 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.

A person convicted of violating this Section is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. 

A second or subsequent violation is a Class B misdemeanor.

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.
Indiana          
Iowa          
Kansas          
Kentucky          
Louisiana          
Maine 7 MRSA § 4019

An animal

 

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. 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.

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.

Maryland MD Code, Transportation,§ 21-1004.1 Cat or dog Standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.

Per District Court of Maryland District page that outlines citations for violations of Motor Vehicle Code:

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:

  • A law enforcement officer
  • A local or state public safety employee
  • An local or state animal control officer
  • An officer of a prevention of cruelty to animals authorized to make arrests
  • A volunteer or professional of a fire and rescue service

 

Massachusetts          
Michigan          
Minnesota M.S.A. § 346.57

Cat or dog

Unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog's or cat's health or safety.

Petty misdemeanor. A person who violates this subdivision is subject to a fine of $25.

The following 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 peace officer
  • a humane agent
  • a dog warden
  • a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department

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.

Mississippi          
Missouri          
Montana          
Nebraska          
Nevada N.R.S. 574.195 Cat or dog 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.

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.

These individuals may use any force that is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances to remove from a motor vehicle a cat or dog:

  • Peace officer
  • Officer of a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals who is authorized to make arrests
  • Animal control officer
  • Governmental officer or employee whose primary duty is to ensure public safety
  • Employee or volunteer of any organized fire department
  • Member of a search and rescue organization under the direct supervision of a sheriff

The person 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.

New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. 644:8-aa "Animal" means a domestic animal, household pet, or wild animal held in captivity. 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. 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). 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.
New Jersey N.J.S.A. 4:22-26 A living animal or creature Unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to the health or welfare of the living animal or creature. Constitutes cruelty with penalty of a sum of not less than $250 nor more than $1,000. None
New Mexico          
New York NY Agri. & Mkts. §  353-d Companion animal 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.

Any person who knowingly violates this section is guilty of a violation:

  • 1st offense - fine of not less than $50 not more than $100 
  • 2nd offense – fine of not less than $100 not more than $250

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.

North Carolina  NC ST § 14-363.3

  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.

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  Cruelty provisions may apply  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

NDCC, 36-21.2-12

Dog or cat

Unattended in a stationary or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the animal's health or safety. Guilty of an infraction A law enforcement officer may use reasonable means to enter a motor vehicle and remove an animal left in violation of this section.
Ohio          
Oklahoma          
Oregon          
Pennsylvania          
Rhode Island  Gen. Laws, 1956, § 4-1-3.2  (1) “Animal” and “animals” means every living creature except a human being;  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. 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.  

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.

A law enforcement officer or animal control officer may enter the motor vehicle for the sole purpose of rescue or release of the animal and may not search the vehicle unless otherwise permitted by law.

A law enforcement or animal control officer who removes an animal from a motor vehicle pursuant to this section is immune from criminal or civil liability that might otherwise result from the removal.

South Carolina          
South Dakota S D C L § 40-1-36 Cat, dog, or other small animal Unattended in a standing or parked vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of such animal. None provided 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    Cruelty provisions may apply 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.
Texas          
Utah          
Vermont 13 V.S.A. § 386 An animal Unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that would endanger the health or safety of the animal. 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). Any humane officer or member of a fire and rescue service may use reasonable force to remove any such animal from a motor vehicle.
Virginia          
Washington          
West Virginia W. Va. Code, § 61-8-19 An animal Unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result. 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. None
Wisconsin          
Wyoming          
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