There is a lot of confusion about leaving pets unattended in an RV. Here’s the law…
- 1 There is a lot of confusion about leaving pets unattended in an RV. Here’s the law…
- 2 Types of Law About Leaving an Animal in a Vehicle
- 3 Some States Allow Forced Entry to Rescue Pets
- 4 Penalties Vary from State to State
- 5 Loads of conversations about Pets in our Facebook Group
- 6 The Great Lakes Adventure Guide Bundle (The Great Lake Shoreline Tour & Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide)
It’s no secret that our RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers love traveling with their pets. According to a survey we did in 2016, about two-thirds of RVers travel with animals, mostly dogs.
And it has also drawn attention from lawmakers across the U.S.
Types of Law About Leaving an Animal in a Vehicle
Per a research paper published in 2020 by the Michigan State University College of Law’s Animal Legal & Historical Center, there are 31 states that have laws either prohibiting leaving an animal in a confined vehicle under dangerous conditions, or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.
“Most laws provide that the animal must be confined or unattended in a parked or stationary vehicle,” according to the paper authored by Rebecca F. Wisch.
“For a person to violate the law, the conditions in the motor vehicle have to endanger the animal’s life. Some of the statutes specifically state that extreme hot or cold temperatures, lack of adequate ventilation, or failing to provide proper food or drink meet this definition.
Other laws simply state that the conditions pose an imminent threat to the animal’s health or safety. Also, some states only cover dogs and cats while other states define ‘animal’ more broadly.”
Some States Allow Forced Entry to Rescue Pets
States with such laws typically allow the rescue of the animal from the vehicle, the paper says.
This may involve forcibly entering the motor vehicle to remove the trapped animal. Some states limit their “rescue” laws to law enforcement, firefighters, animal control, first responders, or authorized humane officers.
Recently, about 15 states have enacted laws that allow any person to rescue a distressed animal (AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, IN, KS, LA, MA, OH, OR, TN, VT, and WI).
These laws function to limit the civil or criminal liability of the person for damages that result from the forcible entry of the vehicle. Indiana is the first and only state to require the person who forcibly enters a vehicle to rescue an animal to pay half the damages.
West Virginia and New Jersey are the only states that criminalize the act of leaving a pet unattended under dangerous conditions without providing a rescue and immunity provision for anyone.
With these new rescue laws, most require would-be rescuers to follow a number of steps. For instance, these laws may require that people first ensure the vehicle is locked and forcible entry is the only means to retrieve the animal. The person may be required to first call 911 or local enforcement before entering the vehicle.
The law may require that a note is left indicating the safe location of the animal and that the person remain on the scene until law enforcement or other first responders arrive.
Penalties Vary from State to State
Penalties for leaving an animal unattended in a motor vehicle under dangerous conditions vary from state to state. A few states make it an immediate fine, like other civil infractions. The rest of the states assign a misdemeanor penalty, with fines ranging from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
Some list possible jail time or imprisonment. New Hampshire makes a second conviction a felony offense.
“While not all states have laws that address animals in parked vehicles, numerous local ordinances prohibit this, and more may be enacted,” the paper states. “Even without a state or local law, this action could still constitute cruelty under some circumstances.
In fact, in the Texas case of Lopez v. State, the defendant left his dog in his car on a hot day to go and watch a movie in a theater. He was ultimately convicted under the state’s anti-cruelty law. Notably, Texas does not have a statute that specifically addresses dogs left in parked vehicles.”
The complete breakdown of current laws about leaving pets in vehicles from across the U.S. can be found in the interactive table below or at this Animal Law website.
Loads of conversations about Pets in our Facebook Group
Ready to take your pet on an adventure? How about here…
The Great Lakes Adventure Guide Bundle
(The Great Lake Shoreline Tour & Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide)
Jennifer and I have been visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for more than three decades. We’ve hiked, photographed, camped, fished, and explored every region and the problem of bugs in the UP is minuscule compared to the joy we experience every time we visit!
Bugs aside, the UP is our favorite place. So much so that we wrote an Adventure Travel Guide on the Upper Peninsula aimed at RVers.
This instantly downloadable ebook is a seven-day guided exploration of the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way.
Then we’ve bundled it with one of our newest ebooks on the Great Lakes!
The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour — One of our favorite RV trips has been driving the United States side of the five Great Lakes.
It is a trip of over 4,000 miles and takes you to 8 states!
And it’s filled with beautiful vistas, welcoming towns and villages, and fabulous places to camp, hike, and explore.
Both of these ebooks have something for everyone and all it takes is one visit to make it one of your top destinations.
All you need to do is point the RV north and follow our guide to experience the UP like a Yooper and explore The Great Lakes like an explorer. CLICK HERE for more details.