Let's talk: Should you be able to break into someone's car to rescue an animal?

It’s a sick feeling you get when you walk past a car in a shopping centre car park and see a dog (or even cat) in the back seat, panting away. What do you do? Tell someone? Leave them there? Wait for the owner? Try to open the door?

Now, one US state has allowed onlookers and passers-by to take matters in their own hands, and break a window if necessary. It’s renewed calls here in Australia for the law to be changed as well.

Tennessee has made is legal to break into a car should an animal be in distress due to heat.

Previously, if someone decided to break into a car to save a suffering animal, they would have faced action in terms of civil liability for any damage caused.

However since last yesterday, that will no longer be an issue, with the only person facing the brunt of the law the person who left their animal in the car.

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In Australia, NRMA advises you call 000 immediately and liaise with police about what to do.

In the Prevention of cruelty to Animals Act, section 5 states: “a person in charge of an animal shall not fail at any time (b) where pain is being inflicted upon the animal to take such reasonable steps as are necessary to alleviate the pain”.

In relation to the provision of water, Section 8 (1) states that ‘a person in charge of an animal shall not fail to provide the animal with food, drink or shelter etc’.

These offences can carry fines of $5,500 and up to six months in jail. If a dog dies as a result of being left in a car, charges include $22,500 in fines and two years jail time for the owner.


With that knowledge, we want to know today: should it be legal to rescue an animal from a hot car?