Dog in the car: Can you break the window?

It is an absolute nightmare scenario for animal lovers: a dog in the car with rising temperatures and closed windows. That can get dangerous. In such a case, the question arises: Can you smash the window or are there legal consequences? Here you get the answers.

A quick trip to the post office or a short trip to the supermarket: in such
situations, pet owners often leave their dogs in the car. You’ll be back soon. But then, suddenly, a queue forms, and everything takes longer than expected. Many people don’t know: Even on cloudy days and with outside temperatures of around 20 degrees, the car’s interior can heat up to 46 degrees. Dangerously high for a four-legged friend: The animal is threatened with heat stroke or death in the worst case.

What to do if a dog is locked in the car

But what can you do if you suddenly find an animal in such distress? The most important thing first: In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, you can smash a car window with impunity to save a dog in an emergency. However, you must observe a few essential points to legally be on the safe side.

Dog caught in the car: the legal situation.

In general, breaking a window in someone else’s car is considered property damage and can be prosecuted under civil law (according to § 303 StGB). However, if an emergency justifies the act, things look different. Paragraph 34 of the Criminal Code (StGB) says: “Anyone who commits an act in the present, unavoidable danger to life, limb, freedom, honor, property or another legal interest to avert the danger from himself or another, not acting illegally”.

Act – but do it right.

So if you come across a dog locked in a car in high temperatures, you should act. But not by smashing the window right away. The first thing you have to do is try to locate the dog’s owner. For example, if the car is parked in front of a shop, you should ask there. If you cannot find the driver within a short time, go to the next step.

That means: calling the police and describing the situation. Provide the exact location of the car. If help is taking too long to arrive or if the dog’s condition in the vehicle is worrying (blood-red tongue, glassy eyes, vomiting or fainting), an emergency exists, and you must act.

Break the window: Here’s how

As soon as there is an emergency, it is justified to break the window if the car cannot be opened in any other way. However, be careful to cause as minor damage as possible. That means concrete. Do not smash the front or rear window or pry open the door. It is sufficient to break the side window.

The car owner cannot claim damages in such a case since the action is also justified by Section 228 of the Civil Code. However, you should call witnesses who can later testify to the emergency and the rescue measures for your protection if nobody is around and document everything with your smartphone. The license plate number and the exact time must also be noted. Then provide the dog with water from the car as quickly as possible.

Follow the checklist
• Find the owner
• Alert the police
• Find witnesses
• If there is an emergency, break the window
• Give the dog water immediately

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