What to do when kids/pets are seen a hot car

What should you do when you see a child or pet sitting in a vehicle on a hot day? 

In some states, “good Samaritan” laws allow citizens to break into a vehicle to rescue a child or animal in distress, but that is not the case for the average person in West Virginia. 

It is illegal in West Virginia to leave an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle when physical injury or death is likely to result, according to W. Va. Code 61-8-19, which deals with cruelty to animals.

Child endangerment laws could be applied for children left in vehicles. 

However, because there is no protection by law, breaking into someone’s vehicle in the Mountain State could leave you facing criminal charges and open to civil lawsuits from the vehicle’s owner. But that doesn’t mean no action should be taken. 

“The best advice that we could give anybody if they see either a child or a dog in that situation is to call 911 immediately,” advised Chief Deputy Mark Ralston with the Monongalia County Sheriff’s Office. “Put that burden on the first responders to assess the situation and, if it is an emergency situation, let them take on that responsibility.” 

There is chance a situation may arise when quicker action needs to be taken, but that call still needs to be made. 

“If it’s obvious they are deteriorating quicker than a responder could get there, then you may have to do what’s necessary — but always make that call first and get guidance from the 911 center until a first responder gets there,” Ralston said. “That way you stay on the correct side of the law, as opposed to just going up and busting a window because you see it.” 

There are a lot of factors that go into determining what is right or wrong in these instances and what may be right in one case could be wrong in the next. 

Ralston said law enforcement would rather not be placed in a situation where they have to criminally charge a person for trying to be a good Samaritan who just went about it the wrong way.  

“If it’s an emergency situation that warrants it, then we’d be all for it, but we don’t want to give anybody the green light to do that without a proper assessment of the situation,” he said, “and each situation is going to be different on that.” 

TWEET @DominionPostWV