Right to Rescue


Is the animal locked in a vehicle on a very hot or very cold day? Without ventilation? Food or water? Or other extenuating circumstance?*

If the animal is in imminent danger and law enforcement cannot respond in time, you may proceed in freeing the animal. But, before you do, you must do and be prepared to do the following:

  • Make sure the vehicle is locked, and there’s no other reasonable way to remove the animal from the vehicle
  • Reasonably believe that the animal is in imminent danger if not removed IMMEDIATELY from the vehicle
  • Contact a local law enforcement agency, the fire department, animal control, or the “911” emergency service prior to forcibly entering the vehicle
  • Remain with the animal in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until a peace officer, humane officer, animal control officer, or another emergency responder arrives
  • Use no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the animal from the vehicle than is necessary under the circumstances
  • Immediately turn the animal over to a representative from law enforcement, animal control, or another emergency responder who responds to the scene

In accordance with the Right to Rescue Act, citizens are protected from criminal penalties when they act to free a pet in immediate danger from a locked vehicle, if they act within the law. Once the animal is freed, you must hand it over to law enforcement or animal control.

Other things to consider

  • Is the dog in distress, or just locked in a car? Is the dog ok, or is he exhibiting signs of distress such as excessive panting, lethargy?
  • Take into consideration interior color of car, whether in shade, time of day, and condition of animal.
  • It has been suggested that if you are going to take action and break a window, protect yourself by taking a screenshot of current temperature and photos/video of act to protect yourself.
  • If you are going to free an animal from a locked car, do you have a method of containing the animal? (leash, collar, carrier) The animal will likely be scared and could bolt into oncoming traffic.
  • Use an abundance of caution in approaching a pet in a vehicle – you are a stranger entering his or her territory.

Although you love going everywhere with your pet, sometimes it’s best to park your pet at home.

*May be punishable under California Law, Penal Code Section, 597.7 (full text)