The Water Cooler – Smashing a Vehicle’s Window to Save an Animal

September 27, 2016 12:00 pm · 50 comments

The “Water Cooler” is a feature on where we ask you a question or provide a topic, and you talk about it.

The “Water Cooler” will be up Monday-Friday at noon.

Today’s question:

In California, it’s now legal to smash a vehicle’s window to save an animal who is in danger of dying during the extreme heat. The rescuer can break the window without fear of prosecution if there is no other way to save the dog, and law enforcement isn’t arriving fast enough.

Question: Would you hesitate to break a vehicle’s window if you saw an animal in distress?


Talk about it.

bobinWC September 27, 2016 at 12:04 PM

Must call police first!

Fred September 27, 2016 at 12:06 PM

No. It’s illegal.

TK September 27, 2016 at 12:14 PM

No hesitation. I would however make sure I had a witness.

Silva September 27, 2016 at 12:15 PM


Anon September 27, 2016 at 12:18 PM

Yes, with no hesitation!

#1 and #2 READ the words: “…it’s NOW LEGAL….”

DOH! Can’t anybody read nowadays?

TinFoiler September 27, 2016 at 12:22 PM

Write a law for this?
How about just do it and let Animal Services and Police deal with the negligent owner.

Melanie September 27, 2016 at 12:24 PM

The CA Hot Dog Law states you have to call police first, and if they’re “not responding fast enough” then you can break the window.

It’s a flawed law. What’s “not fast enough” for a dog?

Mika September 27, 2016 at 12:43 PM

@Tinfoiler #6 you hit the nail on the head. Do what is right (save the animal) and let animal control deal with the rest.

NoBonesAboutIt September 27, 2016 at 12:45 PM

I wouldn’t hesitate if I saw an animal in distress.

Zardoz September 27, 2016 at 12:50 PM

Would call first, if necessary would not have a problem with breaking a window.

Simonpure September 27, 2016 at 12:53 PM

@ Melanie… “The Right to Rescue Act” It is never fast enough. I’m going for the largest most expensive window. It also states you must remain at the scene until law enforcement arrive.


The Mamba September 27, 2016 at 12:57 PM

I just preemptively break car windows now, dog inside or not.

Turn and burn September 27, 2016 at 12:58 PM

Of course I would hesitate for a moment. I think most people would. I mean I’ve never broken someone’s window before. So of course my initial reaction would be to think about it first. But then you realize you’re doing it to hopefully save a life.

Ex-Coastie September 27, 2016 at 12:58 PM

While the law is flawed how would you write an unflawed one? Given that it is a judgment call as to whether the animal is in such acute distress that it cannot survive you are always going to have a law that is flawed. Unless you just make it legal to break a car window any time you feel like it.

Tinfoiler – you have to make a law for this because otherwise you have just smashed your way into a parked car and will be held both legally and financially responsible.

Cowellian September 27, 2016 at 1:11 PM

Fred @2,
Why do you say that?

rofl September 27, 2016 at 1:14 PM

no. too much bs goes with the act.

Sid September 27, 2016 at 1:16 PM

Yes, of course I would hesitate to break someone’s car window. In fact, the law requires the would-be rescuer to hesitate. It requires that law enforcement be called first. Only if law enforcement isn’t arriving fast enough to save the animal’s life can the rescuer break a window. After calling the police, I’d probably go into the nearby store to ask them to make an announcement over the loudspeaker for the car owner to return to the vehicle. Getting my tire iron and smashing the window would a last resort.

foonman September 27, 2016 at 1:17 PM

With someone else agreeing the animal was in danger, break the window, then with crowbar in hand, find the owner……not realistic but would be my emotional thought….

J. September 27, 2016 at 1:22 PM

If you see a pet or child in a hot car dial the local police dispatch (911 might put you on hold for up to 45 minutes). That number is 925-671-3333 for Concord dispatch. Program it into your phone.

When mammals are dying and seconds count, the authorities can be minutes away.

If you wait until they are in distress, the likelihood of them coming out of it are zilch.

Have a plan to break the window with a tire iron, wheel jack, The Club® or an emergency hammer – and pick a window out of eyeshot of the mammal.

dlm September 27, 2016 at 1:22 PM

How you determine the dogs condition before you break the window? What does the dog have to look like ? Are you going to break the window on every hot day you see a dog in a car? Also, it doesn’t have to be a hot day to break a window, but are you going to break a window every time you see a dog locked in a car?

THE ANIMAL September 27, 2016 at 1:27 PM

Law or not,I would do it to save a dog…………..

Booyah September 27, 2016 at 1:35 PM

If it’s an obviously angry barking dog that I think may attack once the window is broken, I will definitely hesitate and just call the police.

Clayton Mom September 27, 2016 at 1:39 PM

you betcha I would!!

I don't trust dogs September 27, 2016 at 1:45 PM

No, I still would not break the window. What if I break the window and the dog jumps out of the car and decides to attack me and mauls me to death?
Sorry folks, but screw the dog.

Think McFly September 27, 2016 at 1:53 PM

You break my window when my pit bull is in the car hot or not you for sure will be going to the hospital from a dog attack, that’s if anyone can pry his jaws from your neck..

Melanie September 27, 2016 at 1:58 PM

It’s very easy to write an “unflawed law.” You have to call police, but DO NOT put any time restrictions on how fast law enforcement has to arrive.

Why the “not responding fast enough” clause when a dogs life is in danger?

Here’s the new, unflawed law. JUST CALL THE POLICE!

The way the law is written, it sounds like they’re discouraging people to break the window. Just wait for the police. If that’s the case, the law is useless.

Charles-the-cat September 27, 2016 at 1:58 PM

This is a variant on the Good Samaritan laws. It simply protects you from being sued for damages by the car owner / dog abuser. Don’t freak out about the law being vague or not knowing if the dog is in distress.

Call the police. Count to ten. Smash the window. You are also required to wait around until the police arrive.

My brother smashed a car window to save a dog back in the 70s in North Carolina. Bro’ left a note on the car stating that he could be found with the guy’s dog at a nearby veterinary clinic. The owner showed up at the clinic with a cop, demanding my brother be arrested. Cop spoke briefly with the vet, came back and cuffed the owner.

BITE_ME September 27, 2016 at 2:22 PM

If the dog is too weak to stand up.
I would bust the window first.
Then call the police.

Then I would see if a door was unlocked 🙂

Bishop Estates September 27, 2016 at 3:10 PM

The minute I place the call, I would break the window. Every second counts, Baby or dog, it doesn’t matter I’m breaking it!

Trucker bug September 27, 2016 at 3:22 PM

Just wait until the first person that breaks their fist on a car window trying to help a dog goes and sues the owner of the car for the broken hand.

Realistically this law is flawed because it’s based on the opinion of the person viewing the animal. In their opinion the animal is in distress. And they are vandalizing someone’s car. Better be able to prove in court the level of distress the animal is in. Otherwise you’re buying a new window

Dr. Strangelove September 27, 2016 at 4:04 PM

I would do it, legal or not…..

Sun Valley Mall Troll September 27, 2016 at 4:25 PM

When it comes to heat, I never hesitate to break a car’s window and free suffering purses, packages, lap tops, backpacks etc.

“No officer, I wasn’t stealing! Just helping out this poor, thirsty cell phone.”

Dogamatic September 27, 2016 at 5:23 PM

I’ve heard it is very hard to break a window in
a vehicle. I might have to get someone to help
me. I just wish people wouldn’t leave their pets
or their children in their cars unattended. It would
spare us all the needless tragedy. In fact, it would
be nice if people didn’t do a lot of things that
result in tragedy.

Rob September 27, 2016 at 5:23 PM

1) Call 911.
2) Make a quick recording of the car, license plate and showing the animal in the car.
3) Tell others what you are doing so they can witness that the animal was in the car.
4) Smash window

tired of taxes September 27, 2016 at 5:25 PM

“In California, it’s now legal to smash a vehicle’s window to save an animal who is in danger of dying during the extreme heat. The rescuer can break the window without fear of prosecution.”
There, fixed the flawed law for you.
And maybe pass a law to make it illegal to leave an animal in a car by itself, just like it is illegal to leave a kid alone by themselves in the car, regardless of temperature conditions.

js September 27, 2016 at 5:41 PM

I have found a doggie in a car once…windows almost closed…no air coming in..was so hot….ran inside nearby store…asking people about the doggie…everyone looked at me as I was crazy…just a dog…so what….went outside to find the doggie almost died….the owner finally came drove away…
sad how owners really do not care enough to not bring a animal out if its so hot….leave the animal at home….at least they have a chance …in a car
with no air…they are as good as dead…..sad …how would a owner like it to be in a car with windows down..gasping for some air…in temps 90-100 degrees….

Russ Sayin September 27, 2016 at 5:56 PM

I would smash all 4 windows, just to teach the bastard a lesson

Clayton Road September 27, 2016 at 6:15 PM

Does this new law apply to humans, too? Seems, these days, animals have become more important than children. Why is that?

GRX September 27, 2016 at 6:50 PM

I concur with #37.

Smash all the side glass AND the rear glass. They are designed (tempered) to shatter into small pieces. The rear glass is usually the most expensive too.

Don’t bother attempting to smash the windshield because they are laminated and designed to crack – not shatter.


RunnerDope September 27, 2016 at 7:20 PM

Claycord, would it be so hard to provide a brief synopsis of the law in the article?

In 2 minutes, I found that you must call police first and make a reasonable attempt to locate the owner. If the police don’t arrive fast enough (?), you may break the window. You also must remain there until the police do arrive.

Blink September 27, 2016 at 8:04 PM

If you love your dog …just leave it at home!

Yes would break window

TPC September 27, 2016 at 9:44 PM

If a sentient being is in distress and needs help, and I am able to provide that help, I will do it without a second thought. Whatever the fallout from my actions may be, I know that I acted out of kindness and concern. If you want to slap me with a fine for being humane, go for it.

Jim Shorts September 27, 2016 at 10:21 PM

The law states that if you break a window, you must wait for the police. If you’re lucky, that could be five minutes, or you could be waiting for half an hour or longer, depending where you are and how busy the police are.
Meanwhile, the owner shows up with a gun and shoots you.

WC resident September 28, 2016 at 12:47 AM

Occasionally on Youtube there are videos showing that if you throw a bit of broken sparkplug at an automobile window that it instantly shatters. I’ve asked various garage mechanics about this. They all say they have heard the same thing but never tried it.

Is it worth it to carry a sparkplug to break a window should there be a dog inside? Obviously I’d want to break out all of the side windows and the back window to improve the airflow for the dog. Can one sparkplug produce enough pieces to do this?

Darwin September 28, 2016 at 6:59 AM

I like dogs, do not like dog people. They tend to be extremists. Break their window and see what happens. Either a beating or a law suit. This law is flawed. There are going to be extremists going around just looking to break windows. Stupid law.

Children September 28, 2016 at 8:20 AM

What about children? Can you break a window for children?

rofl September 28, 2016 at 9:12 AM

Ninja rocks! LOL. Rock on.

karen September 28, 2016 at 4:57 PM

I NEVER leave my dog in the car. I would also NEVER endanger my own life, especially as a parent of small children, to save an animal. Like #24 and #43 said, there is a high probability that either the dog or the owner will attack you.

You’d better make sure that dog is dying before you break a window. How do you know they didn’t run in for 1-2 minutes to grab a pre-paid takeout order, or to pickup their teenager from work?

Once you give people the freedom to break windows, the peta types like #27 are going to go looking for the opportunity. The gravity of the situation might be a matter of opinion.

Steve September 28, 2016 at 7:03 PM

well, if anyone smash window in my car with my dog inside he/she will really regret it. not because of broken glass but injuries resieved from the beast inside 🙂

LW September 29, 2016 at 9:54 AM

Some of these responses are ridiculous. ‘ NO I wont break the window because the dog might attack me… NO I wont save an innocent life because its illegal…. Obviously you’ve never seen a child or an animal in acute distress… They are in no position to attack anyone at that stage, “I don’t want to get in trouble since its illegal… I’m sorry but as an animal lover if I thought a dog was on the verge of dying in a hot car “against the law be damned” put me in jail cuz that car would be busted open….. I swear some people don’t have any common sense……

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