What some people may regard as a noble or even heroic action landed an Iraqi war veteran in jail. Michael Hammons was arrested in Georgia and charged with criminal trespassing after breaking the glass of a hot car to free a panting pet.
Witnesses who saw the man save the dog say they had actually noticed the canine inside the hot Ford Mustang before Michael Hammons ever came on the scene. But, whilst they were waiting for the police, the Desert Storm veteran decided to take action.
“He says we can’t let this dog die, and he starts smashing the windows,” said Diane Byard, one of the shoppers as cited by 11Alive.
He reportedly used his wife’s wheelchair leg to smash the window and free the dog.
“I’ve got PTSD, and I’ve seen enough death and destruction,” he said. “And I didn’t want anything else to happen if I could prevent it.”
But the Ford Mustang owner did not see this as an act of good will. According to witnesses presented on scene, when she came out of the store and saw the damage done to her car, she became furious and demanded deputies take action and arrest Hammons.
“We didn’t want to charge him, but he told us he broke the windows and when you have a victim there saying she wants him charged, we had no other choice,” said Oconee County Chief Deputy Lee Weems.
The car owner also insisted that she was only gone for a few minutes, but Byard, who was on the scene, denies this: “It wasn’t just five minutes like the lady stated, it was a lot longer,” she said. “I personally felt the heat in the car; I saw the dog panting. This dog was in distress.”
“If it is 80 degrees outside, within 30 minutes, it will be 114 degrees inside a vehicle, even with the windows cracked,” she added.
Though the car owner was cited for leaving the dog in the hot car, the deputies say that it is difficult for them to establish how long the dog was left in the car because they have no surveillance video.
Animal advocates say they are working on trying to change the law in Georgia, which currently allows an individual to break a window to save a child in a hot or cold car, but not an animal.
“Anytime you put anything that’s alive in a hot car with the windows up, it should be against the law, and people should be able to do what they need to do to help,” animal rights advocate, Shane Smith told WGXA TV.
Smith believes that Hammons should be rewarded for his action, not penalized.
But Hammons, despite having been arrested and most probably having to pay for the damage done to the car, says he would do it all again.
“I knew there’d be consequences, but it didn’t matter,” Hammons said. “Glass, they make new glass every day, but they could never replace that dog.”