State legislators from around the country are pursuing actions to protect from possible legal repercussions truck drivers and other good Samaritans who step-in to provide aid to distressed animals or people in parked vehicles. Already this year five states acted to shield Samaritans who take action.
Vehicles parked in direct sunlight can reach internal temperatures of 131-172 degrees when outside temperatures range from 80-100 degrees, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Outside temperatures in the 60s can cause internal temperatures to rise above 110 degrees.
There are at least 23 states with laws that regulate leaving an animal in a parked vehicle. Rules in at least 24 states make it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle.
Fourteen states now have Samaritan laws specific to rescuing children left in vehicles. They are: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. Nine states – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin – include animals in the rules.
Two Kentucky state lawmakers want to add their state to the list providing protection for Samaritans who cause damage to a vehicle to rescue animals.
Sens. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, and Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, have filed bills for consideration during the 2018 regular session to provide immunity from civil liability for good Samaritans who break into vehicles to perform rescues.
Before acting, Samaritans are required to take steps that include confirming the vehicle is locked, attempting to contact the vehicle owner, and contacting law enforcement.
McGarvey’s effort covers “domestic animals” while Carroll’s bill specifies aid for dogs and cats.
Likewise, a New Hampshire bill permits the same action to aid a confined animal in “extreme temperatures.”
Sponsored by Rep. Brian Stone, R-Northwood, HB1394 would require concerned citizens to first contact law enforcement and to have a witness present before taking action.
Two Idaho state lawmakers are also getting a jumpstart on legislative work for next year. Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, and Sen. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, have announced intentions to pursue legislation in 2018 to protect good Samaritans who act to help a child stuck in a hot vehicle.
Similar efforts are active in the Pennsylvania statehouse.
The House unanimously approved a bill that focuses on children. Citizens preparing to take action must first take steps that include confirming the vehicle is locked and attempting to contact law enforcement.
“My bill will encourage passers-by to take a second look, contact law enforcement, and step in to help when necessary,” wrote Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake.
The bill, HB1152, is in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
One related bill also halfway through the statehouse covers rescue efforts for animals.
HB1216 would permit emergency personnel including firefighters, police or humane officers to rescue a dog or cat in “imminent danger” of harm. The pet’s owner could also face fines of up to $300 or up to 90 days in jail.
The bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. House lawmakers already approved it by unanimous consent.
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