Animals Pets Dogs in Hot Cars: Where Is It Legal to Help Them? By Mary Jo DiLonardo Senior Writer University of Cincinnati Mary Jo DiLonardo covers a wide range of topics focused on nature, health, science, and anything that helps make the world a better place. our editorial process Mary Jo DiLonardo Updated May 07, 2018 Just leave the little doggie in the car alone. Iryna Inshyna/Shutterstock Share Twitter Pinterest Email Animals Wildlife Pets Animal Rights Endangered Species We've all seen it before. There's a dog in a parked car in the middle of summer with no owner in sight. Maybe the person ran into a store for a few minutes or maybe he's been gone for a lot longer than that. In either case, the dog could be in serious trouble. Even when it feels relatively cool outside, cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures very quickly. In just the first 10 minutes, even with a window cracked open, the temperature in a car can rise almost 20 degrees F, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After an hour, the temperature inside a car can be 140 to 180 degrees F (60 to 82 degrees C). As an animal lover, what can you do? It depends on where you live. The first step is to call 911. Many states allow an emergency responder to break into a locked car to save a dog if its life is in danger. Know your state laws According to Michigan State University's Animal Legal and Historical Center, these states currently have laws that prohibit leaving an animal in a confined vehicle under dangerous conditions and/or offer legal protection for someone who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle. But the laws differ drastically from state to state. Here's a look at how things currently stand. In 14 states, only public officials such as law enforcement or humane officers can legally break into a car to rescue an animal. DelawareIllinoisMaineMarylandMinnesotaNevadaNew HampshireNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaRhode IslandSouth DakotaVirginiaWashington Eleven states have "Good Samaritan" hot car laws, allowing for private citizens to break into a car to save a pet. Most of the laws require that the person must first try to find the vehicle's owner and contact law enforcement before attempting to break in. In nearly all the Good Samaritan states, the rescuer isn't responsible for damages, however, in Indiana, the person is liable for one-half the cost of repairs. ArizonaCaliforniaColoradoFloridaIndianaMassachusettsOhioOregonTennesseeVermontWisconsin In New Jersey and West Virginia, although it's illegal to leave an animal in a hot car, no one has the authority to break in and rescue it, not even law enforcement. Alabama and Kentucky have legislation pending. Making progress Cracking the window does little to change the temperature in a parked car. EvegeniiAnd/Shutterstock Hot car laws are becoming more common, points out the Animal Legal Defense Fund, with 11 enacted in the past two years and two more pending. Even in states without legislation, prosecutors are often reluctant to bring charges against the rescuer for public relations reasons. For example, criminal charges were dropped against a Georgia man who broke into a parked car to save a small dog. In states without hot car laws, people can still be prosecuted under anti-cruelty legislation. In Texas, a man who left his dog in a car while he went to watch a movie on a hot day was convicted under the state's anti-cruelty law.