Browsing through a popular social media site, I saw a post saying it’s okay in Florida to break into a car in which an animal is locked to save said animal from injury or death. The post probably landed in my feed because my algorithms and metrics reveal I am an animal lover and live in Florida.
Yes, I admit, regardless of the law, I would do what I could to save an animal from distress. At least, in Florida, I know I have the law behind me.
I know this, not from the post, but because I looked the law up on www.leg.state.fl.us, the official internet site of the Florida legislature.
It’s wordy, but basically the statute says if you see a domestic animal or vulnerable person locked in a car, and that animal or person is in danger, and there is no other way, then you can break into the vehicle to save that animal or person.
I think there are only a few other states that have a statute like this, those being California, Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Ohio and Tennessee.
What about all the other states? I was surprised to discover in some states, law enforcement officers aren’t even allowed to break a car’s window to save the life of a dying animal inside.
What would you do if caught in a situation where you saw a cat or dog (or other pet) locked inside a hot car with no way to escape? If you knew you weren’t protected by the law, would you still break that window?
Below is the statute I looked up:
768.139 Rescue of vulnerable person or domestic animal from a motor vehicle; immunity from civil liability.—
(1) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Domestic animal” means a dog, cat, or other animal that is domesticated and may be kept as a household pet. The term does not include livestock or other farm animals.
(b) “Motor vehicle” has the same meaning as provided in s. 320.01.
(c) “Vulnerable person” has the same meaning as provided in s. 435.02.
(2) IMMUNITY FOR DAMAGE TO MOTOR VEHICLE.—A person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage to the motor vehicle if the person:
(a) Determines the motor vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the vulnerable person or domestic animal to exit the motor vehicle without assistance.
(b) Has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon the known circumstances, that entry into the motor vehicle is necessary because the vulnerable person or domestic animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm.
(c) Ensures that law enforcement is notified or 911 called before entering the motor vehicle or immediately thereafter.
(d) Uses no more force to enter the motor vehicle and remove the vulnerable person or domestic animal than is necessary.
(e) Remains with the vulnerable person or domestic animal in a safe location, in reasonable proximity to the motor vehicle, until law enforcement or other first responder arrives.
(3) APPLICABILITY.—This section does not limit or expand any immunity provided under s. 768.13 for the care or treatment of the vulnerable person or domestic animal.