Q: With the extreme heat we’ve had this summer I would like to know the legal ramifications for a person when, in a parking lot, observed a dog in a vehicle with no windows open, and the animal seemed to be in distress? Thoughts of breaking the windows out or going inside and having customer service broadcast the plates, make and color of the car, and hopefully embarrassing them that their dog was too hot in their car. Please tell me what I should do in this situation. — Carleen
A: The first advice here is to not, I repeat DO NOT, break the window of any vehicle because you think a dog in the vehicle is too hot. That could cause more trouble than that person needed. Besides being charged with destruction of private property, that person could find out that the dog he or she thought were leading to freedom might just be a hungry dog that likes the taste of your flesh or anybody else nearby. The owner of the vehicle might also have just gone into the store and the dog may not have been in the vehicle as long as believed.
I would also suggest not trying to confront the owner of the dog yourself; unless they are smaller and easily overpowered (that’s only another bad joke). Confronting the owner yourself could also cause more than feeling to get hurt. Let the police talk to the owner, that seems to make things go smoother (I already hear the disagreement from officers out there).
If you believe the dog was suffering from the extreme heat then the next best thing would be to call the local police department and report it. I should mention that unlike child abuse, dog abuse is not mandatory to be reported and you would not get into trouble if you did not report it (good way to test a conscious).
The police can usually determine if the dog is suffering but I need to report that most police officers are not specifically trained to know animal medical issues. I would venture to bet that if the animal was obviously mistreated the officer would probably be diligent in getting the animal help and/or finding the owner(s) and freeing some money from their wallets (a citation fine not bribery money).
If the officer can’t find the owner and the dog appears to be in extreme distress then I would imagine that breaking the glass would be an option the officer could use. Hopefully with nobody near the vehicle in case what I said earlier was true.
Be advised that if the owner was not cited by the police you could sign a citation for cruelty to an animal but would need to prove the charge in court as you would be the charging officer.
Finally if you’re the owner of a dog and want to go shopping, leave the dog at home on a hot day. Hot dogs are best on the grill, not cooked inside a vehicle.
Have a question for Policeman Dan? Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or look for Ask Policemandan on Facebook and click the like button. Mail to: Box 147, Heyburn, Idaho, 83336
Dan Bristol is the City of Heyburn chief of police.