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Question of the Month ~ November 2018


Q. Do any states in the Midwest have Good Samaritan laws for individuals who take actions to save animals?

by Ilene Grossman ~ November 2018 ~ Question of the Month »
Good Samaritan laws offer legal safeguards to people who help others they believe might be injured, sick or in peril. In some states, these laws have been expanded to provide liability protections for people who take actions to protect “companion” or “domestic” animals left unattended in parked vehicles — in conditions where the animals’ lives could be in danger.
According to the Animal Legal and Historical Center at the Michigan State University College of Law, these animal-rescue laws fall into one of two categories: 1) provide legal protections for all people who seek to rescue animals in unattended vehicles, if certain conditions are met; or 2) provide legal protections only for law-enforcement officers who seek to rescue these animals.
The center lists Indiana, Kansas, Ohio and Wisconsin as among the 13 U.S. states that extend protections to all people. Under all four of the Midwest’s “Good Samaritan” laws (each enacted within the last four years), a person must reasonably believe that the animal in the unattended vehicle is in imminent danger.
A person also must take certain actions to receive immunity protections: determine that the vehicle is locked and that forcible entry is necessary; use no more force than necessary; call 911 or contact authorities in another way; and stay with the animal until first responders or law enforcement arrive.
Ohio’s law (SB 215 of 2016) applies to the rescue of not only animals, but of children found in a locked, unattended vehicle. The statutes in Kansas (HB 2516, signed into law earlier this year) and Wisconsin (AB 308 of 2015) provide immunity to people who save vulnerable animals or people of any age.
Indiana’s HB 1085, on the other hand, is specific to animal rescues. Signed into law in 2017, it confers civil and criminal immunity for breaking into a vehicle to save an animal, but the person who did so may have to pay one-half of the costs of any vehicle repairs.
The Animal Legal and Historical Center notes that in most states, people who leave animals unattended in a vehicle, and in dangerous conditions, are subject to no more than a fine or misdemeanor. Among the Midwestern states, the center found three states with specific penalties — Class C misdemeanor in Illinois (for a first offense), petty misdemeanor in Minnesota, and an infraction in North Dakota.
Two states outside this region, New Jersey and Virginia, provide for criminal penalties for individuals who leave an animal in a vehicle in dangerous conditions. New Hampshire makes the first offense a misdemeanor, but subsequent offenses are a Class B felony.


Question of the Month highlights an inquiry sent to the CSG Midwest Information Help Line.