Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether Californians should be allowed to rescue an animal from a hot car by breaking the car's window.
State lawmakers approved the bill on a unanimous vote Thursday, sending it to the governor's desk for final approval before going into law.
The potential new law would protect people from liability for taking actions necessary for rescuing an animal locked inside a hot car, according to the bill authors Assemblymembers Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga).
Thousands of animals die from heatstroke in hot cars each year, according to The Humane Society of the United States.
On an 80-degree day, the temperature in a car can reach 120 degrees. When it's 90 degrees outside, the inside of a car can reach as high as 150 degrees.
Earlier this year, one of the lawmakers behind the bill along with two of his Assembly GOP colleagues got a first-hand experience of sitting in a hot car:
“As Assemblymember Steinorth and I both came to understand earlier this year, it is unbearable to sit in a hot car, especially for our pets," Assemblymember Santiago said. "AB 797 allows Good Samaritans to safely and carefully rescue animals trapped in hot cars without fear of prosecution.”
The bill authors say Good Samaritans aren't sure what to do when they come across an animal in a desperate situation such as being locked in a hot car.
The bill would protect them from being sued and/or arrested if they take following steps:
- Check that the car cannot be opened.
- The animal must be suffering harm or in imminent danger.
- Contact law enforcement.
- Remain with animal in safe location until law enforcement arrives.
- Don’t use more force than necessary to rescue the animal.
Ten years ago, California made it illegal to leave an animal unattended in a car when conditions are dangerous. “It’s time to give people protection from liability in trying to save an animal’s life," State Senator Steve Glazer said.
A dog owner we spoke to, Abigayle Curtis, says she safely leaves her dog in the car sometimes.
"Usually when I leave him inside the car I leave the windows rolled down and I park in a shady spot and then I'll set my timer on my phone to make sure I don't lose track of time," says Curtis.
She says she thinks it's a great bill since people can make mistakes.
The deputy chief for the Cosumnes Fire Department, Mike McLaughlin, says breaking a window should be a last resort.
"We don't want this to be a free pass to break into cars that's not the intent behind it," says McLaughlin. "The first attempt should be to find the owner of the vehicle."
Other people shared their thoughts about the bill.
"I guess i have mixed feelings," says Ken Bradford, a Davis resident. "I don't want pets to die but I wouldn't want someone to smash the window of my car."