Tennessee Law Allows Citizens To Break Into Hot Cars To Save Dogs

Good Samaritans who break a car’s windows in order to save the life of a dog or other animal are protected under the new law.

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It's now legal in Tennessee to break into a car to save a dog or other animal.
 Alper SIRAKAYA/iStock/Thinkstock
It's now legal in Tennessee to break into a car to save a dog or other animal. Alper SIRAKAYA/iStock/Thinkstock
Stephanie Brown

What do you do if you see a dog suffering in a hot car? Well, if you live in Tennessee, you can break that car’s window and save the dog.

As part of the state’s “Good Samaritan law,” people now have the right to break into a car if they see a dog or other animal in danger, News 2-WKRN in Nashville reports.

Under House Bill 537, which went into effect on July 1, specific steps must be taken, including attempting to find the owner and notifying law enforcement.

“If you act reasonably, as any reasonable person would respond, you will not be at fault to save a life,” Mike Franklin of the Nashville Fire Department told News 2. “You will not be at any fault to save a life and or animals.”

This action comes on the heels of a story about a Georgia man who was arrested for breaking a car window to save a dog he believed was in a life-threatening situation. The charges against Michael Hammons, a Desert Storm veteran, were eventually dropped, but not before the story was picked up by media outlets across the country.

Hammons smashed the Mustang's window in order to retrieve a small dog left inside the car on a hot day. Via WSB-TV

Hammons was arrested after smashing a Mustang’s window in order to retrieve a dog left inside the car on a hot day. Via WSB-TV

Even if it doesn’t seem all that hot out, pets left in cars can quickly become overheated — and die — in a matter of minutes.

“You put a pet in a car or a child in a car and you have the windows up and it’s like an oven, and they can die in 10 minutes,” Dr. Craig Prior of Murphy Road Animal Hospital told News 2.

House Bill 537 is thought to be the first of its kind in the country. Legislators in New York recently proposed a similar bill, which has been referred to the agriculture committee.

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  • I have witnessed several incidents already this summer where dogs have been left in vehicles while their owners were in shopping! I called the police after I had waited for the owner to come out of the store within a ten minute time period. I also went in and asked the management to announce the reg. number over the intercom system. Sometimes this brings the people out in a hurry! I hope every state enacts a law to deal with this issue.

    Linda July 8, 2015 5:45 pm Reply
  • Thank you for highlighting this issue. I thought you might be interested in a 60-second PSA that our office just released this week on the same subject. It features “talking dogs” and has taken on a life of its own on social media as well with the hashtag #BuddyDogSays


    Christopher Lee July 9, 2015 8:38 am Reply
  • it needs to be law everywhere and quickly. Too many pets are dying.

    spitzkeeper July 28, 2015 7:03 am Reply

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