Is it Legal In NJ to Break a Car Window to Save a Dog?
Luckily, I've never come across this situation in person, but I've seen plenty of stories online: someone brings their dog out for a drive, then runs in to go shopping or whatever, leaving the dog in the car. We know that temperatures skyrocket in a closed car during the summer, and we've heard the stories about cops or civilians smashing windows to rescue the animal.
The stories typically end with "you can't be charged by the police for damages in this case", and that always seemed kind of sketchy to me, so I decided to actually find out what NJ laws say about this.
According to the Animal League Defense Fund you CANNOT break a car's window to save a dog in New Jersey. N.J.S.A. 4:22-26 states that although it is illegal to leave an animal trapped in a hot car, no one is granted the authority to break into the vehicle to save the animal, not even law enforcement.
The fact that even the cops can't break the window surprised me, because in many states the "hot car" law allows law enforcement to do what is needed to save the animal.
I'm not telling you to sit idly by and watch a dog suffer in a hot car, I'm just saying you shouldn't believe some video your aunt posted to Facebook that says "you won't get in trouble!". You'll feel good for helping an animal, and I'm sure on-lookers will praise you, but you can still get charged and end up having to pay for the repairs.