On May 9, 2015, the army vet, Michael Hammons, who served in Desert Storm, heard a dog in distress inside a hot parked car, with no water. Instinctively, he jumped into action. Grabbing the foot rest of his wife’s wheelchair, he smashed open the window of the car, parked in an Athens, Georgia, shopping center, to free the tiny Pomeranian-mix.
When the dog’s owner came back to her car shortly afterwards, she was mad.
“She said you broke my window, and I said I did. She says why would you do that? I said to save your dog.”
The state of Georgia has no law to protect animals left in hot, parked cars. (Although the state does allow a person to break a car window if a child is in distress.) Elantra Cunningham, the owner of the dog and the car, took advantage of this and insisted that Hammons be arrested.
Chief Deputy performing the arrest, said even though he understands why Hammons acted as he did, the officer had to take action.
“We didn’t want to charge him, but he told us he broke the windows and when you have a victim there saying she wants him charged, we had no other choice.”
That’s because, along with 33 other states, Georgia has no law against leaving an animal in a parked car.
For his part, Hammons has no regrets, “I knew there’d be consequences, but it didn’t matter.” ”Glass, they make new glass every day, but they could never replace that dog.”
Praised For Rescuing A Dog From a Hot Car
Rescuing a dog from a hot car usually brings praise from all around, as it should. Last summer, on a scorching hot day in Jackson, Michigan, Alex Soper also rescued a dog in distress by smashing a car window. He could see the golden retriever puppy was overheating and panting in desperation inside a car with the windows firmly shut.
In his case, he was roundly applauded for his actions, even though Michigan is another state with no law against leaving an animal in a hot car.
Just like Hammons, Alex Soper wasn’t sorry for what he did to rescue the animal. “Given the chance I’d do it again.”
Animal Rights Around The Country
How can it be that it isn’t against the law to leave an animal in a parked car? It turns out that it is illegal in a few states, but not all.
Just 16 states (AZ, CA, IL, ME, MD, MN, NC, NV, NH, NJ, NY, ND, RI, SD, VT, and WV) have laws prohibiting leaving an animal in a confined vehicle. These same laws mostly state that the animal must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle, in conditions that mean the animal’s life is in danger.
In some cases, these conditions are specified: extreme temperatures, lack of ventilation, failure to provide adequate food or drink.
However, even when a state does not have laws that address animals in parked vehicles, there are numerous local ordinances that make this illegal – check out your local laws on this.
Animal Anti-Cruelty Laws
So what about the other 34 states?
Fortunately, all 50 states in the US can now punish the worst cases of animal cruelty as a felony.
In addition to cracking down on the bloodsport of cockfighting, the laws impose stricter punishment upon anyone who tortures an animal.
Thus, in the Texas case of Lopez v. State , the defendant left his dog in his car on a hot day to go and watch a movie in a theater. He was convicted under the state’s anti-cruelty law.