Californians would be immune from liability if they break a car window or enter a vehicle to rescue an animal in danger of serious injury or death from heat under a measure approved Monday by the state Senate.
Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) said the measure is needed to protect bystanders who need to take dramatic action to rescue an animal when authorities are delayed.
“In an emergency, good Samaritans should be confident that they won’t be sued for taking heroic actions to rescue a pet,” said Assemblyman Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga), an author of the bill, after the unanimous vote to approve the bill. It will now go back to the Assembly for final action on amendments.
In 2006, the state enacted a law against leaving an animal in an unattended vehicle under dangerous conditions.
The new bill is supported the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the Humane Society of the United States. The organizations say animals continue to be left in unattended vehicles, despite educational efforts and the fact that owners risk fines and imprisonment.
“Plenty of Californians have come across animals in need of rescue from parked cars on hot days, but aren’t sure what to do and fear being sued or arrested if they take unauthorized steps to free an animal,” the Humane Society said in a letter to lawmakers.
The bill, AB 797, is opposed by the California Federation of Dog Clubs, which said it should be left to professionals to determine whether a dog is in need of rescue.
"The unfortunate owner could find himself liable for unwarranted damages to his property, suffering the loss of his pet and would have no recourse for damage to the car or the loss or death of his dog in the course of the 'rescue,'" the group wrote to legislators.