MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Most people know to not leave pets in hot cars, but police get those calls all the time.
It’s hot, windows up, dog panting — what should you do?
In Minnesota, a civilian breaking a window would be breaking the law. But according to MN Statute 346,57, law enforcement, animal control and firefighters can use reasonable force to remove a dog or cat.
“Citizens are encouraged not to break a window, there are liability and safety issues,” said Minneapolis Police Sgt. Catherine Michal. “We ask that they call 911 and have animal control or an officer respond … We will determine if the dog is in need, and we will break the window if necessary.”
A study from Stanford University found a car can go from 77 degrees to above 100 degrees on a sunny, clear day in 10 minutes. The authors found cracking the windows does little to help.
A police call for a dog in a hot car is considered a priority call. St. Paul Police Spokesman Steve Linders says an officer’s average response time is four-and-a-half minutes.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund says nine states, including Wisconsin, offer some form of civil or criminal immunity to people when damage is done trying to remove a pet — usually a cat or dog — from a car. That person has to call 911 beforehand in most cases.
Michael says a person can be ticketed $25 for leaving a cat or dog in a hot car. If that pet dies, the driver could face felony charges of animal cruelty.
Neither Minneapolis nor St. Paul’s city attorney offices have prosecuted someone for breaking a car window.
Animal law expert Barbara Gislason says anyone who breaks a window would be more likely to face civil action rather than criminal charges.