In Tallahassee, Florida, Senators approved a bill that provides good Samaritans with legal protections if they break into a car to save a person or pet in distress, according to Thursday’s report in Florida Politics. The bill means people who see an animal or person locked inside a hot car could smash a window to rescue them without facing legal action should that car’s owner wish to sue for damages.
If Governor Rick Scott signs the bill, as is expected, HB131 will immediately become law. The bill does require that rescuers call 911 immediately after they break into a car and stay with the vehicle until first responders, such as fire, police or emergency medical personnel, arrive on the scene.
In the first six months of 2015, many dogs in the U.S. perished after being left in hot cars; nine of these fatalities were police dogs left in hot patrol cars. A number of those officers placed the blame on faulty air conditioners. Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that a K9 officer in Florida accidentally left his dog to die in a hot car. When an animal becomes trapped inside a hot car, they suffer a slow, torturous death. They may try to chew their way out, often destroying car’s interior, before succumbing to the heat. On a hot day, the temperature inside a closed car can shoot as high as 116 degrees in just ten minutes.
Additionally, at least nine children were reported to have died after being left in hot cars last year, with three of those fatalities in Florida. The elderly have also died from heat stroke while being trapped in vehicles. This petition for a new law in Florida, which would protect trapped pets from dying of heatstroke, began circulating six months ago, and was addressed to Governor Scott and the Florida legislature. That petition now has over 7,600 signatures and is still open if you wish to add your name.
The Florida House and Senate both gave unanimous approval to the new bill, which was sponsored by Republican Rep. Dana Young and co-sponsored by Broward Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz. Former Senate Majority Leader Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto carried the Senate companion bill. Rep. Young stated that her bill “appears to be the most comprehensive in the nation in extending liability protection not only to rescuing children, but to rescuing elderly persons, disabled adults and pets.” Here is a link to current U.S. laws regarding pets left in hot cars, as provided by the ALDF. Please contact your local Representative if the law in your state needs to be addressed.