New ‘Pets in hot cars’ legislation signed by governor |

New ‘Pets in hot cars’ legislation signed by governor

Joan Merriam
Special to The Union

On Sept. 23, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that allows Californians to smash a car window to rescue an animal trapped in a hot car. AB 797, the "Right to Rescue Act," was signed into law following a series of pet deaths in overheated automobiles across the state.

California now joins five other states — Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Vermont — that allow their citizens to break into a vehicle to rescue an animal. Michigan lawmakers are currently considering making it a felony offense if a pet dies in a hot car.

Only 16 states have laws on the books prohibiting people from leaving their pets in hot cars, although many municipalities have passed these kinds of ordinances.

Prior to the enactment of AB 797, Californians who resorted to breaking into a vehicle to save a pet in distress because of overheating risked being sued for damages by the owner of the car and could also face criminal prosecution. Under this new law, however, Good Samaritans who take this action are protected from legal repercussions as long as there is no other way to free the animal and law enforcement has been contacted about the trapped pet.

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