Is It Legal to Break a Car Window to Rescue an Overheating Pet in Maine?
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions or personal experiences.
Aside from some incredibly nice days at the end of May, Maine hasn't seen a ton of super hot days. Still, even a cooler sunny day can mean that the inside of a car is far hotter than the outside. And those muggy summer days are right around the corner.
Despite the sunshine and warm temperatures, irresponsible pet owners think this can be perfectly fine for dogs if they have to run an errand or two. They justify their actions by thinking the errand may only take 10 minutes. The reality is, of course, it's not okay.
The Real Danger
Last year the Kennebec Valley Humane Society shared an incredibly important graphic from the ASPCA detailing just how dangerous leaving your pet in the car.
Leaving the window cracked? That's simply not good enough.
Parked in the shade too? Still, not good enough.
In fact, even if it's a relatively cool day at just 70 degrees the internal temperature of the vehicle can reach 90 degrees. An 85-degree day can reach the triple digits in just 10 minutes. After 30 minutes, 120 degrees.
Just think how painful it is when you return from the grocery store and sit on leather seats or catch the seatbelt buckle. It's hot, isn't it?
In the event of a pet overheating, if action isn't taken quickly the animal can suffer from heat exhaustion, heatstroke, or sudden death according to the American Kennel Club.
The AKC recommends pet owners keep an eye out for symptoms such as panting, disorientation, noisy breathing, bright red or blue gums, and more.
What You CAN'T Do
If you're out and about and you see a dog inside of a presumably hot car, it can be incredibly jarring. It makes sense to feel the impulse to bust the little furball out. But here in Maine, that's illegal.
According to Maine law (Maine 7 MRSA § 4019), authorization to rescue an animal from a car is only explicitly given to specific individuals such as a law enforcement officer, animal control officer, and select others. Only those individuals are immune from criminal or civil liability.
A few years back, Bangor PD took on this issue head-on on their Facebook page in a delightfully cheeky way after a post had gone viral instructing people on how to break a window of a car to rescue an animal and not get in trouble. It just wasn't true. You can read it here.
What You CAN Do
The Humane Society of the United States recommends taking down the vehicle's information; make, model, and plate number, and giving it to the nearby business in hopes of contacting the vehicle/pet owner before getting the police involved.
A well-intended civilian is simply bound by law to not break into a vehicle so police should be contacted (via a non-emergency line) in these situations. They will then either send someone for assistance or give you further direction.
Let's not put people in this difficult situation, shall we? If you're a pet parent leave the pup at home and safe!