Overheated car notwithstanding, it’s illegal to break a window to free a dog

Jul 14, 2021, 5:43 PM | Updated: Jul 15, 2021, 4:34 pm
break car window dog...
Salt Lake County Animal Services says a dog died Tuesday after being left in a hot car. (Salt Lake County Animal Services)
(Salt Lake County Animal Services)

SALT LAKE CITY — In Utah you can be charged with a class B misdemeanor — unlikely, but does carry a possibility of jail time — for breaking the window of an overheated car to rescue a hot dog in the summer heat.

It doesn’t matter that, if the outside temperature is 100 degrees, after 30 minutes, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach 134 degrees. It doesn’t matter that dogs can experience heat exhaustion when their body temperature hits just 103 degrees. A person can be charged with a class B misdemeanor for breaking the window of a car to rescue a dog from boiling to death. 

And by the way, cracking a window and parking in the shade make little difference.

But it’s legal to free a child from a overheated car

In 2018, an amendment to the “Good Samaritan Law” went into effect in Utah that grants civil immunity to civilians who break into a vehicle to rescue a child confined inside. 

Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office joined KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to discuss.

In June, Debbie measured 179 degrees on the leather seat in her car. 

To put in context, pork spare ribs are done slow smoking when the internal temperature reaches 175-180 degrees.

“You’re essentially baking, whatever is in there, whether that’s a child or an animal. That might seem a little harsh to say, but that’s reality,” Cannon said.

Cannon said people have expressed their frustrations to him about having to watch and wait and for a police officer to arrive while a dog trapped inside a car is suffering under severe heat.

“A dog could die within those five to 10 minutes that it takes for an officer to arrive and legally open the car,” he said.

By the way, it’s generally only safe to leave your dog in the car for a maximum of five minutes, when the outside temperature is above freezing and below 70 degrees, according to hillspet.com.

Should we revisit the law for pets in an overheated car?

Republican state Sen. Todd Weiler of Woods Cross joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to talk about what can be done to change the law to allow a concerned citizen to save an animal dying inside a overheated vehicle.

Weiler said in Utah 80% of all crimes are prosecuted in just three counties: Davis, Salt Lake and Utah. 

“I talked to all three county attorneys . . . all three told me, on this particular situation, that they would never press charges against someone who was breaking a widow on 100 degree days to save an animal,” he said. “One of the county attorneys said that any prosecutor who would bring these charges should not be a prosecutor.”

Weiler mentioned the Tesla Model 3 has a climate-control feature that keeps the inside of the car cool on hot days and warm on cold days when the owner has stepped away and a pet is inside. A 15-inch screen displays this message: “My owner will be back soon. Don’t worry! The heater [or A/C] is on and it’s [XX] degrees.” Tesla boasts it’s is “one of the benefits of having a giant battery pack onboard.”

Debbie asked the senator if there was an appetite among his colleagues to include a provision about saving pets in hot cars to the previously amended “Good Samaritan Law.”

“I will make this commitment live on KSL NewsRadio: I will discuss it with my colleagues . . . I also want to see what our legislative attorneys say because they’re really good at saying, “But what about this? And have you thought about that?”



Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Overheated car notwithstanding, it’s illegal to break a window to free a dog