Pet dog file photo/KCN
Pet dog file photo/KCN
Pet dog file photo/KCN

KAUKAUNA — With the weather warming up comes the inevitable instances of pets being trapped in hot cars.

If you see one, what should you do? There is some confusion and misunderstanding on the new good samaritan law, according to the Appleton Police Department.

And posts making the rounds on social media aren’t completely accurate.

According to Appleton police, there a six very specific requirements that must be followed under the state’s good Samaritan law.

Failure to follow those requirements could make a person criminally liable for damages.

The full explanation from the Appleton  Police Department is below.


We have recently received a number of questions about the “Good Samaritan Law” regarding going into another person’s vehicle to rescue an animal (or child in some posts) in distress. People want to know if it is true. Today’s post should address those questions.


If you see a dog, or any other domesticated animal (the law doesn’t cover farm animals), left alone in a hot car and you cannot locate the owner, the Appleton Police Department advises you to take down the car’s color, model, make, and license plate number.

Noting the location of the vehicle is also important. Be specific, especially if the vehicle is in a large parking lot.

The incident should then be reported to the Appleton Police Department’s non-emergency number (920) 832-5500. (In Kaukauna, the police non-emergency number is 920-766-6333.)

If you believe the animal is in immediate danger of bodily harm or death, call 911. We will have a Community Service Officer or officer dispatched to the incident.


The “Good Samaritan” portion of state statute 895.484 is very specific; regarding someone (actor) forcing entry in a vehicle to rescue a domestic animal. It does not allow someone to simply break out windows or damage a vehicle to remove a domestic animal from the vehicle.

It requires:

(a) A person or a domestic animal was present in the vehicle and the actor had a good faith belief that the person or domestic animal was in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm unless he or she exited or was removed from the vehicle.

(b) The actor determined that the vehicle was locked and that forcible entry was necessary to enable the actor to enter the vehicle or to enable the person or domestic animal to be removed from or to exit the vehicle.

(c) The actor dialed the telephone number “911” or otherwise contacted law enforcement, emergency medical services, or animal control before he or she forcibly entered the vehicle.

(d) The actor remained with the person or domestic animal until a law enforcement officer, emergency medical service provider, animal control officer, or other first responder arrived at the scene.

(e) The actor used no more force than he or she reasonably believed necessary to enter the vehicle in order to remove the person or domestic animal or to allow the person or domestic animal to exit the vehicle.

(f) If the actor left the scene before the owner or operator of the vehicle returned to the scene, the actor placed a notice on the windshield of the vehicle that included his or her name, telephone number, and mailing address, the reason he or she entered the vehicle, and the location, if known, of the person or domestic animal when the actor left the scene.

If the person (actor) damaging a vehicle does not do each of these things (a through f), they can be held criminally liable for damages.


The CSO or officer will assess the situation. While we take these situations seriously, we have seen people who were misinformed or over-zealous, in their reporting of an animal in a car. Our personnel will ensure the immediate need to gain entry into the vehicle.

If the CSO or officer determines entry needs to be made, they will take those actions.

They will also follow-up with the owner/operator of the vehicle. If necessary, the City of Appleton has an ordinance requiring individuals to take proper care of their animals (3-4). Violation of the ordinance could result in a fine of $263.50.

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By staff