New Florida Law Could Make It Legal To Break Into Hot Cars To Rescue Dogs

Benjamin Simon

Most parents and pet owners know not to leave children or pets locked inside a hot car during the summer, but that doesn't stop many people from doing it. But a new proposed law in Florida could give random passersby the temporary authority to smash a window in order save dogs in hot cars.

According to the Huffington Post, the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety Act (or PAWS Act) has been put forward by Florida state senator Dorothy Hukill, allowing any good Samaritan to "use reasonable force" to rescue dogs in hot cars without being held liable for the damages. After the dog has been rescued, the pet owner could then face criminal charges.

"Pets are extremely vulnerable to heat-related injury or death if left in a vehicle, especially on a hot day," Dorothy Hukill said in a statement. "Individuals who risk their pets' lives by leaving them in hot cars need to be held accountable."

According to News4JAX, Hukill was prompted to propose the bill after seeing many dogs in hot cars abandoned by their owners in the notoriously hot and humid southern state.

"Just last week two women in the Daytona area left their dogs in the car while they went shopping at a mall. The dogs were so thirsty they were licking the condensation off a soda can in the car and when let out of the vehicle by police they found the closest puddle of water and began drinking it."

If the law is passed, it wouldn't permit any stranger to break into any vehicle they see with a panting dog in it. The legislation stipulates that the good Samaritan must first attempt to find the pet owner. After that, he or she must also contact a law enforcement official, a 911 operator, or a firefighter to get the go-ahead to save the dogs in hot cars. That may seem like a lot of steps before the animal can be rescued, but it still saves a lot of precious time before police officers or firefighters can arrive on the scene. Dogs in hot cars can perish within minutes, so every second is valuable in saving animal lives.

Animal Legal Defense Fund attorney Carney Anne Nasser supports Hukill's proposed bill, noting that suffering dogs in hot cars is a serious issue. But she expects even more from Florida's leaders.

"The Animal Legal Defense Fund applauds Senator Hukill for her leadership on this issue," Nasser told the Huffington Post, "but encourages the Florida legislature to pass a version of the P.A.W.S. Act that would not only protect dogs and other companion animals from suffering in hot vehicles, but pigs, cows and other factory farmed animals who suffer just as much when subjected to extreme temperatures and deprivation of water during transport to slaughterhouses in overcrowded tractor trailers."

What do you think? Should a stranger be allowed to rescue dogs in hot cars without facing criminal charges?

[Image credit: China Photos / Getty Images]