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Should Windows be Broken to Save Dogs in Hot Cars?

Your auto insurance policy can help pay for damages to your vehicle, but only you can protect the lives of your passengers. On a hot summer day, the inside of your car can reach extremely high temperatures capable of killing pets and children, and some passerby might go as far as breaking your window to save a pet they think might be in danger. Should this be allowed, or maybe even encouraged? While many states still inhabit a legal grey area in this regard, Tennessee has made the first move.


House Bill 537, thought to be the first bill of its kind, was voted into law and took effect on July 1st of last year. This new law makes it completely legal for anyone in Tennessee to break into a vehicle as long as they were doing so to save an animal.


While animal rights organizations like the ASPCA applaud this new legislation, it’s hard not to wonder where exactly the line is. Mike Franklin, the Nashville Fire Department’s chief of staff, spoke to the local news to explain the new system, clarifying, “If you act reasonably, as any reasonable person would respond, you will not be at fault to save a life.”


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Is This Law Specific Enough?

While this certainly represents good intentions, some might criticize this legislation for too vaguely defining the circumstances under which it would be acceptable to break a window. How much damage will be permitted? Who will pay for repairs? Will this fall under the purview of liability insurance? How will law enforcement officials prove that the animal in question was actually in danger?


Of course, when a life is in danger, the top priority should be to preserve that life, and this new law will certainly make people less hesitant to intervene when the time is right. In other states without this law, even if window-smashing is the correct course of action, a passerby can’t take the situation into their own hands. They need to call a police officer and wait for them to arrive, and sometimes, they’re not able to intervene quickly enough. One such case is what motivated Tennessee state Rep. David Hawk to introduce the bill in the first place.


How You Can Make an Impact

If you live in Tennessee, the most important thing you can do is familiarize yourself with House Bill 537 in greater detail to know when you should intervene and when you shouldn’t. In every other state, the course of action is simple: If you see a dog trapped in a car on a hot day and you believe the dog is at risk, call the police. While laws vary from state to state, no other state has laws as loose as Bill 537, so be sure to read up on local law so you can act with certainty. If you have cheap car insurance and you want a buffer in case your window is broken, contact your insurer today and see what options are available.

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