A new bill being considered by California lawmakers would make it OK for bystanders to smash car windows to rescue overheated dogs left behind in hot vehicles.
The Right to Rescue Act, AB 797, would essentially allow a bystander, acting in good faith, to break into a locked car if they felt the trapped dog was in danger of overheating.
California law already allows a law enforcement or humane officer to take all necessary steps to protect overheated animals, but the new law would extend the right to private citizens as dog owner Randall Whittinghill told ABC News.
“I’d rather have the ability to do it rather than not do it. It’s more important to help the dog than it is to worry about people’s feelings.”
California State Legislators Marc Steinorth of Rancho Cucamonga, Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar and Kristin Olsen from Riverbank drafted the legislation to protect overheated dogs.
The three California lawmakers filmed themselves sitting inside a vehicle for 21 minutes on an 89-degree day during a hot car challenge to demonstrate the danger heat poses to trapped animals.
“Sometimes cars get up to 120 or 125 degrees in the Central Valley. Please don’t leave your dogs, your four legged family friends inside a hot car this summer.”
Even on a relatively cool 70-degree day, the inside of a car can quickly heat up to 89 degrees in 10 minutes and can reach 104 degrees within 30 minutes. On hot days when the mercury climbs to 95 degrees, the inside of a car can reach 114 degrees in the first 10 minutes.
Many people don’t know that dogs can’t cool themselves off by sweating the same way humans do, which means they heat up much faster than their owners.
When a dog overheats in a locked car, the trapped canine often destroys the inside of the vehicle attempting to escape, according to the ASPCA website.
“Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature.”
Although the bill is being praised by animal rights activists like dog owner Rocha Boyle, who spoke to ABC 7 News, some fear it could be used by overzealous individuals to damage private property without cause.
“I think that should just be logic. If you see a dog in distress, break the window if you can’t find the owner. I think some people might take it a little far, like they see a dog in there and go a little nuts. I think it depends on the condition, but I think people may take advantage and go extreme.”
A person would legally be permitted to break into a car to rescue an overheated dog if the animal is in danger, they’ve determined the car is locked, and they’ve already contacted law enforcement.
Once the overheated dogs have been rescued from the hot car, the good Samaritan is required to stick around until law enforcement arrives.
There are already laws protecting overheated dogs trapped in cars in 16 states across the country. California already has laws on the books protecting children and infants locked in hot cars, but this bill would also include provisions to allow bystanders to rescue children.
Bill AB 797, The Right to Rescue, was introduced during a Humane Society rally Tuesday and is scheduled to be considered by the State Senate Judiciary Committee June 14.
What do you think? Should good Samaritan bystanders be allowed to break into someone else’s car to rescue trapped and overheated dogs?
(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)