Earlier this month, it was reported by Fox News that an Ohio man was facing criminal charges after attempting to save a dog and puppy from a hot car in a Walmart parking lot. Walking back from a shopping trip, Richard Hill found a group of worried people surrounding a car with a large dog and motionless puppy inside. While 911 had already been called, Hill decided to take action by breaking the window with a hammer so the dogs could get some air. The whole ordeal ended with Hill receiving criminal charges for property damage for the incident, due to the police thinking Hill overreacted to the situation.
The police cited that the owner of the car had left some windows and the sunroof cracked, and the temperature that afternoon was at 78 degrees, making the situation less dire than than the actions Hill took made it seem. Also, they noted that police had arrived in less than four minutes than the call to them took place. Hill, however, felt that his actions were necessary.
The American Veterinary Medical Foundation states that a car can heat up to over 100 degrees on a 78 degree day in less than 20 minutes. Anyone who’s ever sat inside a car in the summer without air conditioning can attest that it gets hot in the cabin quickly. Ohio is also a state that has Good Samaritan laws protecting people helping children and animals in hot car situations. Since the police disagree with Hills actions, however, this law has not been applied with the charges.
This case, while easy to understand on both sides, is complicated when thinking about the law. The charges brought against Hill could classify as vandalism or defacing, degrading, or destroying someone’s property. A typical defense of this would entail mistreatment by law enforcement or misunderstanding of intended actions. Being as Hill’s intention in the action was only to save some helpless animals, we believe he has a strong case.
Regardless of if windows were left slightly ajar, or if the temperature was just slightly below unbearable, leaving dogs alone in a car in the summertime is not a good idea. If there exists a law that is supposed to protect people from getting criminal charges for helping animals and children in these exact situations, this law should continue to function if the intention is to help, as in this case.
In the defense of Hill, or anyone finding themselves wanting to help animals and children, details such as how long they were left in the car, how long it will take law enforcement or help to arrive, or just how hot it is inside a vehicle are unknown to someone staring at an unmoving child or animal inside a car. The immediate response is to help.
Ultimately, Richard Hill states that he has no regrets in his attempts to save the dog, and we completely agree. We hope the justice system sees his good intentions, and that it serves as a precedent for future cases involving these types of situations that animals or children should not be left inside cars alone.