Is it Legal to Break a Car Window in Montana if a Pet is Inside?
According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the "dog days of summer" are from July 3 to August 11. They wrote,
In ancient Greece and Rome, the Dog Days were believed to be a time of drought, bad luck, and unrest, when dogs and men alike would be driven mad by the extreme heat!
The term came from the morning rising of Sirius, the Dog Star which is the brightest visible star in our sky. Regardless of its meaning, the dog days of summer are here and it's hot. Temperatures around the Treasure State are expected to remain in the upper 90s - 100 for most of this week. And once again, I'm seeing reports on social media of dogs being locked in hot cars in parking lots. What's wrong with people?!
Hundreds of dogs perish annually in hot vehicles.
You may love summer heat or you might hate it, but one thing everyone hates is seeing dogs locked in hot cars. Barkpost.com says that on average 38 children die from being left in a hot car annually and HUNDREDS of dogs die each year from heat strokes after being left in vehicles. Even with windows cracked, dogs can perish in as little as 15 minutes if temperatures are too high. Interior temps can quickly climb to around 120 degrees.
Will I face charges if I break a car window to rescue an overheating dog?
An article published by Michigan State University says "31 states have laws that either prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle."
I reached out to Billings Police Animal Control for clarification on the Montana statute regarding pets in cars. A representative told me that while Montana does not have a specific law regarding pets left in vehicles, the issue falls under the Montana animal cruelty law 45-8-211, which reads (in part):
45-8-211. Cruelty to animals -- exceptions. (1) A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals if, without justification, the person knowingly or negligently subjects an animal to mistreatment or neglect by:
(a) overworking, beating, tormenting, torturing, injuring, or killing the animal;
(b) carrying or confining the animal in a cruel manner;
(c) failing to provide an animal in the person's custody with:
(i) food and water of sufficient quantity and quality to sustain the animal's normal health;
(ii) minimum protection for the animal from adverse weather conditions, with consideration given to the species;
(iii) in cases of immediate, obvious, serious illness or injury, licensed veterinary or other appropriate medical care;
The person I spoke with at animal control said they receive hundreds of calls each year (and they've already begun) regarding pets left in hot cars and they do write tickets. The first offense is a misdemeanor with a fine up to $1,000.
So, is it okay for you to break a window on a car if you see an animal trapped in the heat? I was referred to the above legal code and told that if you believe the animal is imminent danger, then yes. Always consult an attorney regarding any legal advice.
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