A viral Tiktok video has raised the question: What are the laws surrounding dogs or animals being left in cars in Michigan?
The video, which you can see below, is very short. It shows an interaction between the person videoing and a table of people sitting in a restaurant. In the video, you can hear those sitting at the table say, "Bye, Karen," as the person videoing walks out to a truck with two dogs locked inside.
This video was posted about 4 days ago (July 6th). The video's description claims that it was about 90 degrees that day. Take a look:
Now, I come from Florida, where anyone can break into a car to rescue a domestic animal without fear of civil liability or damage. And, it sounds stupid but, I assumed that the laws were similar everywhere.
But, I was wrong.
What Are Michigan's Laws Around Pets Being Left in Cars?
As I did my digging, I found that Michigan doesn't have a specific law with language about leaving an animal in a car.
However, Michigan does have an animal cruelty law with a list of prohibited actions including:
- abandoning an animal
- cruelly driving, working, or beating an animal
- failure to provide an animal with adequate care
Adequate care includes providing food, water, and shelter.
In this specific instance, a car is not considered an adequate shelter. Especially during extreme weather conditions, both hot and cold, in Michigan.
What Do I Do if I See a Dog/Cat in a Car in Michigan
Take down the license plate, try to find the owner, and call the police.
In Michigan, you are not protected from civil liability if you break into a car to rescue an animal. Calling the authorities is the best path to save the animal and protect yourself at the same time.
Even if the owner of the car/animal returns to their vehicle and leaves before the police arrive, they can track the owner down to check on the animal and assess whether or not any fines or penalties need to be applied.
There are a variety of penalties for animal cruelty in Michigan, according to aggressivecrimingaldefense.com. Those penalties include:
- 93 days imprisonment, a fine up to $1000, and/or up to 200 hours of community service.
- 2 years imprisonment, a fine up to $2,000, and/or community service for up to 300 hours
- 4 years of imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, and/or community service up to 500 hours
The penalty depends on prior convictions and the number of animals involved.
Is There Ever a Good Time to Leave My Animal in My Car?
No. It's never a good idea.
In a 2019 article from wzzm13.com, a local police sergeant explained why. Sgt. Joel Roon, of the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, said,
We actually never recommend leaving your pet in the car. There are always unforeseen circumstances. You may think you're going to be gone a couple minutes, next thing you know you're gone for 30 and the temperature's spiked to a point where it's not survivable for that pet.
The same thought applies when it's freezing outside, too. The "what ifs" just make it too much of a risk.
Learn more about the animal cruelty laws in Michigan here.