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New law allows Californians to rescue animals from hot cars

Posted: September 26, 2016 7:07 p.m.
Updated: September 26, 2016 7:07 p.m.
Associated Press photo of "pampered pets." Associated Press photo of "pampered pets."
Associated Press photo of "pampered pets."
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A new California law makes it legal for people to smash car windows to save animals trapped in hot, parked cars.

The “Right to Rescue Act,” Assembly Bill 797, was signed Saturday by Gov. Jerry Brown and will go into effect Jan. 1. It allows individuals to break car windows, without fear of criminal or civil liability, if an animal appears to be suffering.

When parked cars reach temperatures of 150 degrees on 90-degree days, animals inside can suffer from heat stroke and lack of ventilation.

Shirley Miller, public information officer for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, emphasized the importance of an animal being “in distress.”

“It’s when it’s a life or death situation when you can tell that animal is not doing well at all,” Miller said. “That would be an instance when a citizen should take action.”

Miller said the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station often receives calls from concerned residents about animals, especially dogs, left in hot cars.

The assembly bill was drafted by Assemblymembers Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) after several dogs died from being left in hot cars.

“The Right to Rescue Act will save lives,” said Steinorth in a press release. “In an emergency, good Samaritans should be confident that they won’t be sued for taking heroic actions to rescue a pet.”

The law, however, is seen only as a last resort to save an animal trapped in a hot car.

Someone can only break into a vehicle if the animal appears to be in “imminent danger,” there is no other way to open the car and law enforcement has already been contacted. After breaking into a vehicle, the individual must stay with the animal at a safe location until officials arrive on scene.

“We also live in an area where there are a lot of animal owners,” Miller said of the Santa Clarita Valley. “We receive many calls from concerned residents during the warm weather of pets left in cars.”

Santa Clarita deputies are responsive to calls that relate to animals or people, she said.

This means that residents should only break car windows when an animal is in dire need.

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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