Only Florida, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin currently allow concerned citizens to break into vehicles to rescue an animal without fear of being held liable for damages.
In states without hot car laws, prosecutors may be reluctant to bring charges against rescuers, as there is little chance of conviction but a good chance of losing reputation.
“Given bloated dockets, crowded prisons, and mandatory sentencing schemes, prosecutors are generally motivated to dismiss or settle cases brought against meritorious defendants," says ALDF fellow Jennie James. "Thus, the person who breaks a car window to free a trapped dog may be lauded, not charged. In fact, since police enjoy similar discretion, the dog’s rescuer may not even be arrested.”
In states without hot car laws, perpetrators may still be prosecuted under the general anti-cruelty laws. In Lopez v. State, the defendant left his dog in his car on a hot day to go and watch a movie in a theater. Though Texas does not have a “hot car” law, he was ultimately convicted under the state’s anti-cruelty law.