Is it legal to break a car window to rescue a dog from a hot car?

Last night I was interviewed by reporter Jason Volentine with KTVK-3TV about what you can legally do if you see a dog locked in a hot car.

20140604 Russ on KTVK-3TV Breaking Window to Save Dog
Click the Image to View the Video and Article on the KTVK-3TV website.

I explained that Arizona law has a Necessity Defense.  This law states that it is justified to break the law if a reasonable person would believe it was the only option to prevent a harm that would be worse than breaking the law.  In this case the question is, “Is a dog’s life worth more than a broken window.”  Breaking someone else’s car window would normally be the crime of Criminal Damage.

If you are faced with this situation, I recommend first trying to find the owner of the vehicle.  I also recommend calling 911  and letting the dispatcher know what you are doing and why you are doing it before you actually break the window.  If there is a police officer or firefighter available to break the window, let them break the window instead of you.

I think there are very few police officers, prosecutors, and judges who would value a car window over the life of a dog, and therefore breaking a window to save a dogs life would likely be justified in the eyes of the law.

You should only break the window to save the dog’s life.  You are not justified in breaking the window because you are mad at the owner for locking their dog in the hot car.  Likewise, you cannot also slash the cars tires, or assault the car owner.  Be careful not to overstep the bounds of the law.

If you must break a car window, be careful.  Car windows do not break easily and if you are not careful you could injure yourself or the dog you are trying to save.

One last note, before you break a car window, check the car door to make sure it is locked.   Opening an unlocked car door is a lot easier than breaking a window.

Please Don't Wait. I Can Help You.
(480) 344-0911