A Tennessee law allowing people to break into cars to rescue pets left sweltering by their owners went into effect July 1st. Only 16 other states protect people from civil litigation in such a situation. However, all states ban cruelty to animals, and leaving a pet in a car can count as cruelty. Previously in Tennessee, there was a Good Samaritan law on the books but it only pertained to saving children from hot cars.

The new law will protect people who smash windows or jimmy locks in order to save animals from over-heating from being sued by the car's owner. A bystander can't just start smashing windows, however. They must make sure the car is locked, the animal or child is in danger if not immediately removed, and the Good Samaritan must also call the police.

"It takes only minutes for a pet to face death – on a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can reach 160 degrees, even with the windows cracked," Chloe Waterman, senior manager of state legislative strategy for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals told NBC News.

Dogs, like children, are unable to communicate when they're in danger. They are also not as efficient as adults at cooling down their bodies. A dog in distress will panic, making the likelihood of a heat-related death or injury even higher.

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