Great New Massachusetts Law Lets Good Samaritans Bust Dogs Out Of Hot Cars

Photo credit: Flickr/Cindy Funk

Before last year, there wasn’t a single state where it was legal for Good Samaritans to bust dogs out of hot cars. Vigilante rescuers faced criminal and civil liability.

In 2015, Tennessee became the first state to make it legal for folks to break into a car to save an animal’s life. FloridaOhio, Wisconsin, and Vermont followed suit, to great cheer from animal advocates.

And as of this week, that list of states has grown by one more: Massachusetts, where on Wednesday Gov. Charlie Baker held a ceremonial bill signing surrounded by puppies.

“This is one of those laws you hope never has to be implemented,” Baker said, according to Mass Live.

Photo credit: Matt Stone Photography via MSPCA-Angell
Photo credit: Matt Stone Photography via MSPCA-Angell

The bill, S. 2369, prohibits leaving pets in cars when the weather is likely to endanger their well-being.

But should someone do that anyway — which, please don’t! — now there are legal means for getting these pets to safety.

Law enforcement officers, firefighters, and animal control officers may get into the vehicle “by any reasonable means to protect the health and safety of an animal.”

Regular citizens are also allowed to break some windows, so long as certain conditions are met: You’ve got to have good reason to believe the pet is in real danger. You must make sure the doors aren’t unlocked (or that there’s some other less extreme way of getting the animal out).

Call 911 or otherwise alert law enforcement before doing the deed. And stay with the animal in a safe place, close to the vehicle, until the cops or other law enforcement arrive.

The bill also prohibits dogs being tied up or tethered for more than five hours per day — or 15 minutes in bad weather.

Photo credit: MSPCA-Angell
Photo credit: MSPCA-Angell

“We are really pleased that the governor signed this bill — and thankful to the many legislators who worked so hard to ensure it would pass,” MSPCA-Angell spokesperson Rob Halpin tells Shelter Me. “Animals deserve this very basic protection and we’re thrilled that here in Massachusetts they now have it.”

Us, too — and we can’t wait to see which state will be next.

Let lawmakers know if you’d like your state to adopt similar protections.

And reach out at aringreenwood@gmail.com if you have an animal story to share.

Featured image via Flickr/Cindy Funk

Arin Greenwood

Arin Greenwood is an animal writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Previously, she was animal welfare editor at The Huffington Post. Arin is a former lawyer (J.D. from Columbia Law School, member of the New York Bar), life long animal lover, pit bull advocate, and devoted fan of cats and dogs who run for public office. Her first novel, Tropical Depression -- based on her five-odd, sometimes very odd, years living on a small island near Guam -- was published by teeny indie publisher Back Porch Books in 2011. Her second book, a comic young adult mystery called Save The Enemy, was published by Soho Teen in November 2013. Hello From Dog Island!, Arin's third book, will be published by Soho Teen in 2018. Know a shelter with a great, innovative program? Have another animal story to share? Get in touch at aringreenwood@gmail.com!