Miki Peltier wants to smash your car window. If you're a delinquent dog owner, that is.
While strolling through the parking lot of a St. Paul Target store last week, Peltier heard a barking dog. The temps were in the low 80s and Fido sat in a car with the windows cracked. “I thought, 'I am not leaving you like this,'” Peltier recalled in a Facebook post.
After doing her shopping, Peltier returned to her van and noticed the dog still inside the “hot car.” She lingered, watching for the owner. Peltier implored an employee to page the owner over the loudspeaker, initially to no avail. Forty-five minutes after first seeing the dog, she recruited a cop who happened to be in the parking lot for assistance.
Using his trusty “car opener thingy,” the officer removed the pup from the vehicle and let it cool off in his air-conditioned ride. By then the store agreed to hail the owner. “A very pissed off woman” emerged and “ripped into” Peltier for meddling with her dog.
“I said to her if you didn't feel guilty you would not be yelling at me,” wrote Peltier.
Then she went to a grocery store, where she saw another dog left in a car. This time she turned things over to mall security, but her canine crusade would not end there.
Outraged and inspired, Peltier launched a petition to make it legal for citizens to smash car windows to rescue pets from sweltering cars. So far her vigilante petition has nearly 300 signatures.
“What is wrong with some people humans?” Peltier wrote. “If they love their pets so much on a hot day, leave them home.”
Damn dumb some humans...went to Target for stuff around 7pm tonight, parked, was walking in and heard a dog barking, so...
It's unknown if either pet owner was cited, but in Minnesota letting a dog or cat broil in the backseat to the point of endangerment is a petty misdemeanor subject to a $25 fine.
After Hurricane Katrina, Fridley animal law attorney Barbara Gislason wrote a report on animal Samaritan laws across the country. Most states don't have them, she says, and those that do mainly cover vets. In Minnesota only cops, firefighters, humane agents, or other rescue officials can pull dogs and cats from automotive ovens.
Pup-saving intentions or not, rogue window smashers could be nailed for damage to property or sued in civil court, she says. While Gislason says calling 911 is the smart move, there's a chance glass-shattering vigilantes could get off clean.
“If they do so in a situation where an animal is clearly dying, I don't know that a prosecutor's going to go after them,” she says. “These are difficult calls for people to make looking through a car window.”
From case to case, courts can treat animals as property, family members, or a funky category between property and people. Depending on the species, animal cruelty laws don't always apply.
“Certain pets have more protection in animal cruelty laws than others, like a chicken in a car would not get protected,” Gislason says.
As for Peltier's petition, would the government actually permit people who cry through that Sarah McLachlan commercial to put bricks through car windows?
“I find it unlikely that a legislature would open a door to what it would consider vigilante practices,” Gislason says. “But it might be helpful to have a law that veterinarians could enter the car if called and make a decision that the safety of the animal was at issue. I think bringing veterinarians into the equation by statute is the smart way to go. That's who the legislature respects.”
For now, blow out strangers' windows at your own risk.
Send news tips to Michael Rietmulder.