You see a dog in a hot car: What the law in NJ says you can do (Opinion)
It amazes me that during every heatwave, we learn of another case of animal cruelty with dogs and other helpless animals being left in sweltering cars.
According to N.J.S.A. 4:22-26 it's against the law in New Jersey to leave a living animal or creature "unattended in a vehicle under inhumane conditions adverse to [its] health or welfare."
The pathetic fine is "not less than $250 nor more than $1,000."
You know what else is also against the law? Rescuing an animal by means of breaking a window or entering the vehicle.
While other states have "good Samaritan" laws on the books, New Jersey does not have a law allowing you to save an animal by breaking into a vehicle.
I don't know about you, but if I saw a living creature suffocating in a hot car, I'd say "screw the fine" and break the window or whatever else I needed to, law or no law. (This is what I personally would do. I don't advocate taking that action.)
The Humane Society recommends doing the following if you find a creature in a hot car:
- Take down the car's make, model, and license plate number.
- If there are businesses nearby, notify their managers or security guards and ask them to make an announcement to find the car's owner. Many people are unaware of the danger of leaving pets in hot cars and will quickly return to their vehicle once they are alerted to the situation.
- If the owner can't be found, call the non-emergency number of the local police or animal control and wait by the car for them to arrive. In several states good Samaritans can legally remove animals from cars under certain circumstances, so be sure to know the laws in your area and follow any steps required.