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Bill would protect good Samaritans who break into hot cars to save children, pets

A bill proposed to allow good Samaritans to intervene when children or animals are left in hot cars is waiting on a vote in the Arizona House of Representatives.

Senate Bill 1001 was designed to protect Good Samaritans who break into cars to save a child or pet if they have “a good faith belief” they are in danger. Sen. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, proposed SB 1001 after he was approached by the Humane Legislative Coalition of Arizona, an organization that includes the Arizona Humane Society.

“The bill would absolve from civil liability for the damages caused anybody who breaks into a locked car to rescue a child or a pet that’s in danger of death or an injury because of the heat,” Kavanagh said.

“Every year, local police and our Emergency Animal Medical Technicians respond to dozens of calls of children and pets left in hot cars,” said Dr. Steven Hansen, CEO of the Arizona Humane Society.

In just 10 minutes the temperature inside of a closed car can rise 20 degrees, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Researchers at San Francisco State University conducted a study in 2003 that showed that the temperature inside a vehicle can rise to 114 degrees on a 95 degree day, and will rapidly rise to 140 in under an hour even with the windows open.

The current law protects law enforcement and animal control officers from liability if they enter a vehicle to save a child or pet, but civilians do not have the same rights. If a civilian finds a child or pet in a hot car they’re only legal option is to call authorities and wait for them to arrive. If SB 1001 becomes law, a person is required to call authorities prior to breaking a window, but the new law would permit them to react immediately.

The bill passed in the Senate, 25-5, in February. It awaits hearings in the House.

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