ATHENS, GA (WXIA) – A man saves a dog from a hot Mustang but was arrested because of how he did it. The move landed Michael Hammons behind bars.
"I heard someone say there was a dog in distress in a hot car," he said.
Without thinking, the Desert Storm veteran jumped into action. Diane Byard says she and a group of shoppers noticed the dog in the car and were waiting on police before Hammons came.
"He says we can't let this dog die, and he starts smashing the windows.
And with his wife's wheelchair leg, he smashed the window, freeing the dog.
"I've got PTSD, and I've seen enough death and destruction," Hammons said. "And I didn't want anything else to happen if I could prevent it."
But witnesses say when the owner came out of the store, she was furious, and demanded deputies take action.
"If the owner was okay with that, and didn't want any charges, would he have been arrested?" asked 11Alive's La'Tasha Givens.
"No," said Oconee County Chief Deputy Lee Weems. "We would not have made those charges on our own. The deputies on scene say the owner of the dog and the car were very insistent that he be charged with criminal trespassing."
She told police it had only been five minutes.
"It wasn't just five minutes like the lady stated, it was a lot longer," Hammons said. "I personally felt the heat in the car; I saw the dog panting. This dog was in distress."
Givens knocked on the dog owner's door and telephoned her but were not able to reach her on Monday.
"If it is 80 degrees outside, within 30 minutes, it will be 114 degrees inside a vehicle, even with the windows cracked," said Weems.
The owner was cited for leaving the dog in the hot car. But without surveillance video, deputies say it is hard to tell how long the dog was actually left in the car.
Georgia state law does allow an individual to break a window to save a child in a hot or cold car, but not a pet. That is something that animal advocates say they are working to change.