California Law Makes It Legal To Smash Windows To Save Pets in Hot Cars

Dogs trapped in hot cars in California hopefully will be a thing of the past.

It is now legal there for good Samaritans, as a last resort, to rescue dogs or other animals from hot cars (or even cold cars) without being sued for property damage by the vehicle owner or subject to criminal charges. The law takes effect on January 1, 2017.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed the Right to Rescue Act, Assembly Bill 797, into law on Saturday. The measure, which amends Section 43.100 of the state’s Civil Code and section 597.7 of the Penal Code, was originally introduced in May by Republican Assemblyman Marc Steinworth and other lawmakers on a bipartisan basis.

It also received the support of the Humane Society and the Los Angeles District Attorney among various other organizations.

Steinworth appeared in the #HotCarChallenge video (embedded below) to promote the Right to Rescue Act.

“The bill was introduced after a series of incidents in which dogs died after being left in closed cars on hot days,” NBC Los Angeles explained about the measure, which passed unanimously in the state legislature.

Prior law allowed only cops and animal control officer to legally break into a hot car to save the life of a dog when the owner isn’t around. An owner who leaves a dog in a hot can be charged with a crime in California.

Under the newly signed law, however, a bystander can take action, such as smashing the car window, if he or she has a reasonable belief that a dog or other animal in a locked car is in immediate danger.

The new law also requires the good Samaritan to only use reasonable force and also to call 911 before “forcibly entering the vehicle.”

Dogs can overheat at a far more alarming pace than humans because they do not vent heat by sweating, the Inquisitr previously noted.

“Under AB 797, a citizen must first call law enforcement to report a situation in which he or she believes an animal to be in peril. But if the animal is in imminent danger, the car is locked, and law enforcement is not arriving quickly enough to save the animal’s life, the bill provides immunity from civil and criminal liability to a person causing vehicle damage for the purpose of rescuing the animal,” the Los Angeles Times explained about the new law that allows for ordinary citizens to rescue dogs and other pets from hot cars.

“People who leave their pets in their parked cars while they run errands are probably not aware that the temperature inside can rise 20 degrees in only 10 minutes. Leaving the windows partly open and parking in a shady spot really don’t do much to lower the temperature,” the Care2 website detailed.

Last month, Steinworth asserted that “The Right to Rescue Act will save lives, In an emergency, good Samaritans should be confident that they won’t be sued for taking heroic actions to rescue a pet. 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.”

About six states have enacted similar laws protecting good Samaritans from legal liability in these circumstances.

Gov. Brown separately signed controversial election-related laws that allow felons to vote from jail and for anyone, not just family members, to drop off absentee ballots, the latter change which has been criticized by opponents as “ballot harvesting.”

Do you think that other states should pass a law similar to California’s Right to Rescue Act that will allow concerned citizens to break into unattended hot cars to rescue dogs?

[Featured Image by Luca Bruno/AP Images]