Citizens are now protected from civil & criminal liability for necessary actions taken in good faith to rescue an animal from a hot car
Co-authors: Assemblymembers Brown, Campos, Chang, Chavez, C. Garcia, E. Garcia,
Lackey, Maienschein, McCarty & Waldron and Senators Anderson & Pavley
Every year, thousands of our companion animals (overwhelmingly, dogs) succumb to heatstroke in hot, unattended vehicles. These temperatures are unbearable for any person, but especially for animals who do not have sweat glands like humans and can more easily succumb to organ failure, brain damage and even death in a matter of minutes in a hot car.
California law (Penal Code 597.7) — enacted in 2006 — already makes it illegal to leave an animal unattended in a parked vehicle (along with over 20 other states). And California’s Good Samaritan Law protects citizens from civil liability for rendering “emergency medical or nonmedical care” to a person in need.
However, it remains unclear whether a person who enters a car without the driver’s permission to rescue an animal in distress would be liable for civil or criminal penalties associated with trespass or any damage done to the vehicle necessary to free the animal.
In 2015, Tennessee made history by passing a similar measure – the first of its kind in the nation. Since then, the states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and Vermont have joined them with legislation pending in New York and Massachusetts. AB 797 is modeled on these laws.
No. The main lawbreaker here is the person leaving their animal in a dangerous situation. It has been against the law in California for a decade to leave an animal unattended in a parked vehicle in conditions that could harm the animal. That law passed and recognized – as 20 other states do – the serious harm that can happen to animals when they are left in hot cars.
Many times concerned citizens and law enforcement can locate the car’s owner in time to take the necessary steps to keep the animal safe. However, there are circumstances when concerned citizens are unable to find the owner or law enforcement or animal control is tending to other priorities and can’t arrive in time to rescue the animal. And minutes do matter when a dog is trapped in a hot car.
Know that a person is still liable if they attempt to render aid to an animal that is outside of what is authorized by AB 797, which lays out the steps a Good Samaritan must take if they want to help and avoid the risk of civil or criminal liability. Such citizens who take action to save an animal will have the burden of demonstrating they followed the steps of the law. Furthermore, California already protects citizens who take similar steps to help children left unattended in vehicles.
AB 797 would protect the Good Samaritan from civil or criminal liability – and in doing so, can save the lives of numerous pets!
And check out the media coverage on AB 797 from:
>> Sacramento Bee – Free hot dogs! California bill would allow it
>> ABC10, KXTV, WLTX19 – Bill allows for rescue of trapped dogs
>> CBS Los Angeles – Bill Would Allow Passersby To Damage Vehicles To Free Kids, Pets From Hot Cars
>> San Francisco CBS Bay Area – Dog In A Hot Car? New Legislation Would Allow Concerned Citizens To Break Windows
>> ABC Eyewitness News LA – California Bill Aould Allow Window Smashing to Save Dogs from Hot Cars
>> San Diego Union-Tribune – Hot dogs in cars: Bill would let people break windows to save them
>> Fox 11 Los Angeles – Proposed ‘Hot Dog Bill’ would allow pets to be rescued from hot cars
>> The Modesto Bee endorses AB 797 – Heat can be a disaster if we’re not prepared