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View Full Version : Breaking a Car Window to Save a Dying Dog


Washoe
06-07-2005, 02:53 PM
Question inspired by this Pit thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=320039). Itís also something Iíve wondered about beforeóthe Pit thread just brought it to the forefront of my attention. Despite the fact that our judicial system has disintegrated into nothing more than a three-ring comical farce, I would tend to seriously doubt that a person could get into any legal trouble if they were to break the window of a strangerís car to free a trapped child. (Although I could very well be wrong on that). But what about an animal? To what extent would a person be held criminally or civilly liable for damages to another personís vehicle if they damaged it to save the life of a dog? I would imagine that the community would come to the support of the rescuer and that even the most dimwitted, thimbledicked prosecutor would realize that he would be laughed out of court if he attempted to pursue it, so I would guess that there would be no serious criminal penalties resulting from this. But what about civil accountability? Would a small claims judge be likely to award damages for a broken car window to our hypothetical would-be rescuer? I would venture to guess that it would depend a lot on how much the judge likes dogs. Personally, Iím willing to take the chance, but it would really piss me off if I had to reimburse some moron for a broken side window.

Whack-a-Mole
06-07-2005, 03:07 PM
In general I would say that interpreting the law and taking the law into your own hands is not going to win you many friends. I'd say chances are good you could find yourself in trouble for breaking a car window to release an animal even if your intentions are good. Certainly the owner may, and probably will, sue you for the window replacement.

If you see alone in a car call the police or local SPCA and let them take care of it. I have done this on a few occasions and was a little surprissed that it actually did get a response from Chicago police (one time I waited to see...police showed in five minutes of calling...no sirens or anything but they came and checked it out).

Whack-a-Mole
06-07-2005, 03:08 PM
If you see alone...

Should be:

"If you see an animal alone..."

Pullet
06-07-2005, 03:09 PM
I guess it depends on just how evident it was that the dog was in mortal danger. Like if the rescuer and maybe other witnesses could testify that the car had been there a really long time and the dog was going into respiratory distress and still required veterinary attention after it was rescued, then I could see a civil judge lambasting the stupid owner. If the owner just hopped out to use the ATM and the car was in the shade and still cool inside from the air conditioning and the dog was quite unharmed, the rescuer will probably be buying a new car window.

Fun with shades of grey.
My $0.02.

Pullet
06-07-2005, 03:11 PM
What whack-a-mole said. Let the SPCA or Animal Control know. They're in a better position to judge and are legally allowed to take swift action.

Washoe
06-07-2005, 03:18 PM
I guess it depends on just how evident it was that the dog was in mortal danger.

Yeah, I should have stipulated that. Iím imagining a scenario where there is little other recourse and itís clearly evident that the dog will be dead in say ten minutes or less without immediate intervention. Iím also imagining other hypothetical factors like I donít have a cell phone, and Iím by myself, so I canít send another person off to find the owner while I stay and monitor the dogís condition.

Revtim
06-07-2005, 03:19 PM
In Florida at least, the cops will bust a window to free a dog, so at least here you don't have to take on any legal risk.

Almost happened to me once, I left my friend's dog in my car one evening (way after sunset, so no sunlight was heating the car) and I forgot to crack the window. Fortunately I remembered I forgot to crack the window pretty shortly, and when I went out to the car the cops were already there. They had paged me at the bar (where I was meeting my friend to transfer the dog back to him), but I hadn't heard it.

I'm not sure the dog was in any danger, but I would have gladly lost a window to save him, no question.

Quartz
06-07-2005, 03:24 PM
Doesn't America have a Good Samaritan principle? Besides which, surely if you're willing to break that window, you've made a decision that the dog's life is more important than any financial penalty?

Look how things change (as the OP indicates) when you substitute child for dog. Should a Buddhist (who believes in reincarnation and will therefore see a dog a a incarnate soul) be charged differently from a Christian (who doesn't)? If so, what happened to the seperation of church and state?

vetbridge
06-07-2005, 03:44 PM
In most states the law is contradictory. Often, a dog is seen as property. Yet, there are laws making neglect/cruelty punishable. My advice is always to call the police in a situation like this.

Pullet
06-07-2005, 03:51 PM
Yeah, I should have stipulated that. Iím imagining a scenario where there is little other recourse and itís clearly evident that the dog will be dead in say ten minutes or less without immediate intervention. Iím also imagining other hypothetical factors like I donít have a cell phone, and Iím by myself, so I canít send another person off to find the owner while I stay and monitor the dogís condition.

Aha :) No worries.

davenportavenger
06-07-2005, 03:51 PM
Even if you did have to pay, chances are you could get reimbursed by PETA or some other animal rights group if you brought it to their attention, and they would also make the owner's life miserable. So you'd come out in the black no matter what--no financial loss plus people calling you a hero.

Pullet
06-07-2005, 04:09 PM
A hero in PETA's eyes? Avoiding that is worth more than the window. Eat the lost cash.

Bryan Ekers
06-07-2005, 05:16 PM
A hero in PETA's eyes? Avoiding that is worth more than the window. Eat the lost cash.

Well, you can dispell the curse by heading to the nearest McDonald's and wolfing down a Big Mac.

Pullet
06-07-2005, 05:21 PM
Well, you can dispell the curse by heading to the nearest McDonald's and wolfing down a Big Mac.

Woohoo! Murder Burger (http://www.fcusd.k12.ca.us/chsweb/Burgers/MurderBurger.htm) here I come! :)

samclem
06-07-2005, 08:10 PM
Hmmmmmmmm! Where to put this question? I'd have trouble myself if I were the OP.

My rant beongs in the Pit, but I'm looking for a few factual answers, but I also want opinions.

So, IMHO will do for now.

samclem moved it from GQ to IMHO.

Whack-a-Mole
06-07-2005, 11:53 PM
IF you see the animal in question in clear danger/distress then fine...break the window. Realize however that you might still be prosecuted for vandalism or whatever is applicable criminally as well as get sued by the owner of the car. Personally if I saw an animal going into obvious distress from heat stroke I'd smash the window and worry about the consequences later but that is just me as I adore animals.

I expect that I'd be found guilty of some crime for smashing the window but a court would (should) weigh the extenuating circumstances and the penalty should be light....but who knows? A civil case could be brought no matter what and if it is you may have to deal with attorney costs at the least to defend yourself.

However, barring an obvious instance where you see an animal in mortal danger I doubt you would get a lot of latitude from the courts by taking the law into your own hands. Maybe some guy ran into a mini-mart for 3 minutes to buy a soda and the dog in the car is fine in that time frame but you stroll along and throw a rock through the window. Basically, I stand by calling the police or local SPCA (if you have one) in most instances. They know what the laws are and have the authority to act.

DiosaBellissima
06-08-2005, 12:32 AM
If the dog is CLEARLY in danger, I'd save it.

If it was ruled my fault, I'd happily pay for a new window so long as the animal is safe.

Shirley Ujest
06-08-2005, 06:48 AM
If the dog were clearly in peril ( or it was a savagly hot day) and I knew were the owner went too, I'd call the business on my cell to have the owners paged while trying to work the window down. Then I'd call the cops.

Cornelius Tuggerson
06-08-2005, 12:09 PM
This could be great material for a comedy sketch. Someone who looks like their name is Grievous Bodily Harmsworth runs out of the car to go get some money out of an ATM. A do-gooder breaks the window of their car to "save" the panting, miserable-looking bull-terrier(they always look like that) inside and promptly gets mauled by it, finally manages to climb up a tree only to see the owner getting back from his ATM run. Hilarity ensues.

Seriously though - get a cell phone and carry it with you, that way you'll never have to worry about either getting eaten alive by the poor little doggie you just "saved" or paying the owner damages for the broken window.

Bryan Ekers
06-08-2005, 03:15 PM
This could be great material for a comedy sketch. Someone who looks like their name is Grievous Bodily Harmsworth runs out of the car to go get some money out of an ATM. A do-gooder breaks the window of their car to "save" the panting, miserable-looking bull-terrier(they always look like that) inside and promptly gets mauled by it, finally manages to climb up a tree only to see the owner getting back from his ATM run. Hilarity ensues.

Hey, makes ME laugh.