26 August 2016

LEGISLATION - Proposed California Law Aims to Save Pets in Hot Cars

A proposed California state law called the ‘Right to Rescue Act’ (AB 797) would permit concerned citizens to save an animal believed to be in danger ‘by any means’.

(Citizen breaking window to remove dog from hot car, Ontario, 2016)
The act ‘provides legal immunity for a person who damages a car in a good faith effort to save an animal from dangerous conditions while trapped in a hot car.’

The act is a joint venture by the Los Angeles County District Attorney and the Humane Society of the United States.

Authored by Republican assembly member Marc Steinorth, he asserts there has been very little opposition to the bill but there is some concern that criminals will use it as an excuse to break windows.

“My only concern is sometimes people will jump the gun, so to speak, and just want to go in there and get the animal out without first giving themselves an opportunity to evaluate the situation or have someone in an official capacity evaluate the situation. But I like the idea that we can help them sooner than later,” he said, adding that waiting for law enforcement to arrive may be too late for the animal.

It's possible crime could lead to the inadvertent rescue of a dog trapped in a sweltering truck, as is the case in a recent instance where thieves broke into a car parked near a Chicago pub to steal a laptop – and wound up freeing a dog trapped in the sweltering vehicle where the outside temperatures had reached into the 80s (likely around 120F in the vehicle).

In order to be granted immunity, the person must be in compliance with the following:
Determine the car is locked or there is no other reasonable method to remove the animal from the vehicle; have a reasonable and good faith belief that the animal is in imminent danger if not immediately removed; contact law enforcement prior to entering the vehicle; use no more force than necessary to enter the vehicle; and, if the person does enter the vehicle, the person must remain nearby with the animal in a safe location until law enforcement arrives. The person may not leave the scene.

The bill follows closely acts enacted in Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

This year has seen other states enact such legislation.

In Ohio, former 2016 Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich signed Bill 215 in March, allowing people to break animals and children in distress free from hot vehicles; the bill comes into effect at the end of August.

A similar bill was passed by the Massachusetts Senate in June.

By Lindsay Seewalt
Lindsay is an experienced journalist and mother of three whose heart and home is always open to a four-legged friend. With her Corgi, Angie, as household editor-in-chief, Lindsay gives back to the animal planet through the written word on anything and all ado about pets. She is passionate about topics regarding animal welfare and responsible pet ownership, which she aims to instill in both her readers and children to be compassionate animal lovers who are conscious and considerate that furry friends around the globe deserve a voice.

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