Immunity for Hot-Car Pet Rescues Clears Calif. Senate

     SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — California lawmakers on Monday unanimously approved a proposal that would allow bystanders to break into cars to save animals from the sweltering California heat without being sued or arrested.
     The “Right to Rescue” bill would grant immunity to someone breaking the window of a parked vehicle in order to rescue an animal deemed in trouble. The bystander also must quickly call law enforcement and wait until help arrives.
     The bipartisan authors of Assembly Bill 797 say it will save pets from death in hot cars.
     “In an emergency, good Samaritans should be confident that they won’t be sued for taking heroic actions to rescue a pet,” Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, R-Rancho Cucamonga, said. “We hope this never has to happen; this effort is also about spreading awareness of the danger of hot cars, and that leaving your pet in harmful conditions is already illegal.”
     The proposal is similar to a law enacted in Tennessee, and breaking into someone’s car has some caveats: the individual must first check to see if the doors are unlocked and be certain that the pet is in danger.
     Steinorth and two of his colleagues filmed a promotional video earlier this year to portray how hot parked cars can become with the windows up on a 90 degree day. It took just nine minutes for temperatures to reach 100 degrees inside the car, and the lawmakers lasted 21 minutes in the car before ending the experiment.
     It has been illegal in California to leave unattended animals in cars under hazardous conditions since 2006. Proponents say AB 797 will remove doubt from individuals that witness an animal struggling in a car and spur them to act.
     The Humane Society of the United States is sponsoring the bill and a host of other animal welfare groups are supporting it as well.
     The American Kennel Club and the California Federation of Dog Clubs are opposing the bill. The groups worry that dogs could be harmed during rescue, and that car thieves may take advantage of the law.
     Bill co-author Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, says he’s proud to be contributing to the bipartisan effort to “end inhumane animal deaths.”
     “As Assemblyman Steinorth and I both came to understand earlier this year, it is unbearable to sit in a hot car, especially for our pets. AB 797 allows Good Samaritans to safely and carefully rescue animals trapped in hot cars without fear of prosecution,” he said in a statement.
     The bill goes to the Assembly for consideration of amendments and then to Gov. Jerry Brown for final approval.

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