Can You Legally Break a Window to Rescue a Dog from a Hot Car in Boise?
Mother Nature gave us every reason to believe that summer may never arrive in the Treasure Valley. But after a handful of rainy, cool weekends it looks like hot, sunny days are finally here to stay!
That means we've entered the days where it is no longer safe to leave children and pets in a vehicle while you run into a store to do errands. Idaho's blazing sunlight can turn the inside of a car into a microwave quickly. The National Weather Service illustrates that even on a day that's 73º outside, the inside of a vehicle can reach temperatures over 100º in just over 20 minutes. On a day where it's over 90º outside? The interior of the vehicle reaches the century mark in just five minutes.
A second illustration shows that cracking a window doesn't make much of a difference.
Temperature Inside a Vehicle (Closed vs Cracked Window)
You see these figures EVERY summer, so you assume it would be common sense for pet owners to NOT leave their furry friend in a locked car under these conditions. Well, as humanity continues to demonstrate...people lack common sense. It drives you nuts to walk through the parking lot at Fred Meyer, Albertsons or any other retailer in the Treasure Valley and see dogs visibly in distress while their person is shopping. You love animals and want to shatter that window to save that dog. Can you legally do it?
Idaho State Law Says No
In 2018, former Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a bill that made good samaritans immune from civil liability and the potential of being prosecuted if they had to force their way into a vehicle to rescue a person at risk of serious bodily harm or death. The lawmakers who introduced the bill introduced a similar bill applying to rescuing animals, but it failed by a single vote in the Senate. That means you can still face prosecution for damaging a vehicle to save an animal. Most law enforcement agencies determine if that should happen on a case-by-case basis.
Boise Code Says Yes
On June 7, 2021 Boise put their updated animal code into effect. Under the updated code, any person who enters a vehicle or trailer, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of rescuing a pet is immune from criminal penalties and civil liability for damages under certain conditions. There are SIX conditions listed in 5-1-19 of the Boise Code. You can click HERE to read them all, but the most important one is #3.
Condition 3 says that a person MUST contact law enforcement or the "911" emergency service PRIOR to forcibly entering the motor vehicle or trailer.
You'll also need to stay with that animal near the vehicle until an authorized officer or emergency responder arrives. They'll take it from there. You can't keep the animal.