Do Florida Laws Protect Dogs in Hot Cars?
As the summer weather begins to heat up, more Florida residents are looking for outdoor activities that can keep them entertained and help them cool down. However, since many Floridians choose to travel and take car trips across the state with their pets, it is essential that these animals have as much protection from the sun as possible.
There are a variety of dangerous consequences that come with leaving your dog alone in a hot car, especially during a Florida summer when the temperatures can reach the triple digits. If you are a dog owner or a concerned citizen who hopes to learn whether there are existing laws in Florida that can protect domesticated pets who have been locked in hot cars, take a look below.
Florida Statutes on Rescuing Pets from Vehicles
It is not uncommon for someone in Florida to leave their dog in a car while they make a quick trip inside of an establishment that does not allow animals. In these circumstances, owners often leave their vehicles running with the air conditioning circulating inside the car to ensure that their pet is cool and comfortable until they return.
Unfortunately, there are also many times when a pet owner leaves their dog unattended in a vehicle that does not have the necessary cooling for the summer temperatures that Florida receives. When this occurs, the state has declared that it is lawful for an individual to forcibly enter another vehicle to rescue a pet who is in danger of overheating.
According to statute 768.139, those who damage a vehicle in the pursuit of removing a vulnerable animal from dangerous conditions are immune from civil liability. Florida is one of 11 states in the country that allows individuals to rescue an animal, often a dog, from a vehicle and remain immune from legal action by their owner. However, there are limitations on these conditions that excuse the removal of an animal from a car sitting in the heat.
The person who enters a vehicle with the intention of helping an animal must have reasonable belief that it is in danger of suffering imminent harm if it is not removed. Additionally, the damage done to the vehicle in pursuit of an animal in danger must be no more than necessary. This means, to ensure immunity from liability, there cannot be excess damage done to the vehicle other than the force required to free the animal from the car.
What to Do if You Witness a Dog Trapped in a Hot Car in Florida
Before taking any action, it is advisable to make your best effort to locate the animal’s owner. If the vehicle is parked outside of a small establishment such as a bank, it will be easy to enter the building and ask around to see if anyone owns the vehicle. If you witness a dog in danger of overheating while in the parking lot of a large mall, it may be more challenging to find the owner.
If you are in a circumstance where you cannot reasonably attempt to locate the owner, or if you have attempted to find them but they were not on the premises, you should immediately contact local authorities and speak with someone on the non-emergency line. Inform your local law enforcement, as well as any managers in nearby establishments, about the animal who is in danger. You will need to provide authorities with your location or any identifying landmarks that indicate where you are, in addition to the condition of the dog inside the vehicle.
After you have successfully alerted 911 or local authorities, remain with the animal until they arrive. During this time, you will need to monitor the condition of the animal to ensure that it is not experiencing any worsening symptoms of overheating. You may also benefit from taking down the make and model of the vehicle, as well as the license plate number and any identifying marks in or on the vehicle such as bumper stickers, dents, or scratches. Taking photographs or videos of the dog can also provide you with important evidence if the owner chooses to pursue a case against you after the incident.
Protecting Your Pet from High Temperatures
Florida is known for its warm weather, and it is one of the main reasons that people choose to relocate to the Sunshine State. Unfortunately, this can be dangerous for those who are not used to the temperatures, and this can include animals. Protecting your dog from Florida heat is important all-year long, especially if they are inside of a vehicle.
Studies have shown that if it is 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature inside of your vehicle can reach 116 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour. This drastic change in temperature increases in severity as the weather outside of the vehicle heats up and, when it reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the inside of your car can reach up to 99 degrees Fahrenheit within 10 minutes. These conditions are dangerous for a variety of reasons, but they are especially challenging for dogs and other domesticated animals who are trapped in hot cars in Florida.
To ensure that your pet is protected from dangerously hot temperatures happening across the state, never leave them alone in a car that does not have air conditioning. You should always ensure that they have access to clean, fresh water. Some dog owners have purchased cooling pads to keep in their vehicles that they use in conjunction with reflective window shades which help to significantly reduce the heat entering the vehicle.
Signs of Overheating or Heat Stress in Dogs
When you are monitoring your own pet or an animal locked inside of a car in the heat, it is vital to look for any symptoms that the dog may be experiencing heat stress. The signs that a dog is overheating can include any of the following:
- Panting heavily
- Difficulty walking
- Glazed eyes
- Lowered pulse rate
- A deep purple or red tongue
If you notice that a dog is showing any of these signs, it is important to get them somewhere cool and provide them with water so they can regulate their internal temperature, as well. Sprinkle cold water over their coat and behind their ears and armpits rather than splashing them with water, which can drop their temperature too quickly.
Dogs do not produce sweat or react to heat the same way that humans do, so it is always necessary to ensure that they are able to cool themselves off whenever they are experiencing hot weather, especially the variety that occurs in Florida.
Contact a Trusted Defense Attorney in Florida
Some owners may still pursue legal action if their vehicle is damaged in another individual’s attempt to rescue their dog from overheating. They may attempt to argue that the damage done to their car is in excess of the necessary force, or they can attest that the animal was not in the amount of danger that the other person claims. Working alongside an experienced Florida attorney can provide you with an advantage when proving your side of the situation.
The team at The Umansky Law Firm have been helping clients in Florida for years in many similar cases. Our attorneys are trained in a variety of legal matters that can help you build a strong defense if you are taken to court.
To get started, contact The Umansky Law Firm or reach out to us online to schedule your consultation with one of our qualified Florida defense attorneys.