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Break a window to free a dog? Not in Indiana

Posted at 10:53 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 14:49:19-04

See a dog trapped in a car on a hot summer's day? If you break the window – at least in Indiana – you're the one police will be talking to.

Indianapolis Animal Care & control says they get calls throughout the summer from people worried about animals left in vehicles.

"Literally, if they're in there their internal system and brains could get fried," said animal control officer Jerry Kellems. "It's like baking them from the inside out."

If Kellems comes across a scene like that, he can call IMPD, who can break into the car.

A new law in Tennessee allows not just officers, but anyone passing by, to do the same and be immune from civil liability.

In Indiana, though, no such law exists.

In fact, a statewide law prohibits cities from passing their own law – like Greenwood, which last month passed, and then repealed, a Good Samaritan Ordinance.

"Indiana's home rule statute states that municipalities cannot enact civil defenses," said Krista Taggart, corporation council for the city of Greenwood. "That's something that has to be done at the state level."

Unlike in 19 states, it's not illegal in Indiana to leave your dog in a hot car.

"We don't have anything in the books," said State Representative Linda Lawson (D-Hammond). "There is nothing at all that would protect an animal from being in a hot car for any length of time. Not two hours, two days, or whatever."

Instead, it's up to individual municipalities. Many have ordinances making leaving a dog in a hot car illegal. But just as many don't.

What does that mean for you? If you see a dog in a hot car, your best bet is to call police immediately.

But realize, even if a dog is in danger, its owners may not get in trouble at all.

Lawson said a change in the law at a state level is possible during next year's legislative session.

The laws in Indiana are clearer when it comes to breaking into a car to rescue a child.

RELATED | What to do if you see a child in a locked car