It's understandable for you to feel upset and want to take action when you see a dog locked in its owner's car on a hot day. Temperatures inside vehicles can soar quickly and can potentially be fatal to any living creature left inside. While you might be ready to break the window so that you can reduce the internal temperature of the vehicle for the dog, you also don't want to end up facing a charge of vandalism or destruction of property. Acting quickly is important, but before you find a rock or something else that is hard enough to break a window, here are some steps that can protect you legally.
Call The Authorities
You should place a quick 911 call to advise the authorities of the situation. It's possible that the dispatcher could tell you to break the vehicle's window based on your description of the animal, but it's also possible that the dispatcher could indicate that the police are on their way. Calling the authorities can not only guide you in how to proceed but can also provide a record of the incident in the event that you get charged with a crime.
Record The Animal
Most people today carry smartphones, which can often be beneficial from a legal perspective. Before you take any action against the vehicle, use your smartphone to make a video recording that clearly shows the animal inside of the vehicle. Talk through what you're seeing, and attempt to open the vehicle's doors while you record yourself doing so. This way, there will be proof that the vehicle was indeed locked, which could refute the owner's eventual claim that you broke a window instead of just opening a door. Should you end up facing a charge, this video may be a critical piece of evidence in your defense.
Involve A Witness
If possible, flag down someone else in the area to explain the situation. Most people will feel upset at the plight of the animal and will be happy to stay and help you as a witness. For example, having someone say that the animal was showing signs of duress while inside the hot vehicle will be important in the event of an arrest. When the police come, the witness can help you to explain what went on. You should always obtain the name and contact information for this person before you leave the scene, however, especially if it seems evident that you might get arrested for vandalism.
If you follow the above steps and share this information with a criminal law attorney, there's a high chance of your charge being dropped.