Police clarify law to save pets in hot cars

Dog in Car on May 8, 2017 (WLUK/Mike Moon)

APPLETON (WLUK) -- Most people know they shouldn't leave their children in the car when temperatures rise, and police say the same goes for pets.

But there's some confusion about what state law covers when it comes to breaking into a car, especially when it comes to freeing a pet.

In Wisconsin, it's legal for a person to break a car window to save a pet in a hot car. That's thanks to a Good Samaritan law passed in 2015.

"We know people are passionate. We know people care a lot for animals, but they need to do things in the right way," said Sgt. Dave Lund of the Appleton Police Dept.

There are steps a person has to follow to be protected under the law, Lund added. He said a post going around social media recently caused confusion.

"Kind of simplified it," said Lund.

So Lund advised not to believe everything you read online and he explained what you need to know if you see a pet in distress.

"If they're at that point where they think there is immediate danger for the animal, they have to call 911 based on the statute," Lund explained.

That call has to come before you try to get inside the car. After calling 911, you need to wait by the car for an officer to arrive or leave a note with your contact information.

If you need to get into the car, Lund said, first, check to see if it's unlocked.

"We have people that would break out a window and not try to make sure if the door is unlocked," he told us.

If you do break a window, Lund said leave as little damage as possible.

Lund told FOX 11 if you don't follow the steps, you could be held accountable.

"Could be criminal damage to property. Could lead to charges," he explained.

And for the pet owners out there, officials recommend when it's really hot outside, instead of taking your pets with you, leave them at home.

"The temperature can rise, on a 75 degree day, up to 100 or 120 degrees within minutes and then your dog will suffer brain damage or heat stroke and we don't want to see that happen. So what I always suggest is think very carefully before you take your pet with you," advised Deb Lewis, executive director of the Fox Valley Humane Association.

Something else important to note: The law only covers household pets like cats or dogs. It does not cover exotic or farm animals.

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