You will be pleased to learn that the law limits your liability if you break a window on a car to rescue a child or a pet. However, you must follow the rules very closely for this protection.
The law basically says a person can use reasonable force to enter a locked and unattended motor vehicle to remove a minor or a domestic animal and is not liable for damages in a civil action if all of the following apply:
1. The person believes in good faith that the minor or the animal is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death unless they are removed from the motor vehicle. It is interesting to note that there is no mention of a minimum outside temperature. 2. The person determines that the vehicle is locked or there is no other way of opening the vehicle. As a police officer, I would frequently go to these calls only to find that the doors on the other side of the car were unlocked. Be sure to check all options before forcing entry. 3. You must contact the police, emergency medical or animal control before entering a motor vehicle. The operative word here is “before” you force entry. 4. You only use the amount of force that is necessary to gain access. So, don’t pull off a door with your truck winch when all you had to do is break the window. 5. If you do use force to gain entry to a vehicle, you must stay with the minor or the animal until first responders arrive. Lastly, if you fail to do any part of this law you could be held liable for the damages.
When I was a police officer I responded to hundreds of calls of children or animals locked in the car. In every single case I was able to find a way to break into the car without damaging it or the owner returned in just a few minutes. I would respectfully recommend that you use caution and ensure you are complying with the statute before you force entry to a vehicle.
Lesson from the bench: Never ever, ever leave your children or pets in a vehicle unattended, especially during the summer months; they are simply too precious to be left alone.