New California Law Allowing Concerned Citizens to Rescue Dogs From Hot Cars Takes Effect Jan. 1

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A new California law that protects citizens who act “in good faith” to rescue a dog left in a hot car will go into effect on Sunday.

In this file photo, a puppy left in a car on a sweltering day was rescued by a police officer who smashed int the vehicle's window to save the dog in Pensacola, Florida. (Credit: Pensacola Police Department)

In this file photo, a puppy left in a car on a sweltering day was rescued by a police officer who smashed in the vehicle’s window to save the dog in Pensacola, Florida. (Credit: Pensacola Police Department)

Assembly Bill 797, known as the “Right to Rescue Act,” will allow good Samaritans to smash windows and break into a vehicle in order to save an animal from a hot vehicle, provided several conditions are met.

Those conditions include: checking to ensure the car cannot be opened; observing the animal is suffering harm, or is in immediate danger; calling law enforcement; remaining with the animal until first responders arrive; and not using more force than necessary during the rescue, according to a news release from Majority Whip of the State Assembly Miguel Santiago.

By following the necessary steps set forth by the law, citizens will protect themselves from criminal prosecution of liability for civil damages, said Santiago, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area.

Santiago jointly authored the bill with Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, a Republican who represents Rancho Cucamonga.

“I am proud to be working on this bipartisan effort to end inhumane animal deaths,” Santiago said in the release, which was issued in late September after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill.

“As Assemblymember Steinorth and I both came to understand earlier this year, it is unbearable to sit in a hot car, especially for our pets. AB 797 allows Good Samaritans to safely and carefully rescue animals trapped in hot cars without fear of prosecution,” he said.

Santiago noted that when temperatures hit 80 degrees outside, it can hit up to 120 degrees within 10 minutes inside a parked car; on a 90-degree day, the interior can reach a high of 150 degrees.

According to Dan Felizzatto, Deputy District Attorney with the Los Angeles County DA’s office, hundreds of animals suffer from being left in hot vehicles each year, resulting in “many” deaths.

“By the time a citizen spots an animal trapped in a hot vehicle the situation is often dire, and requires immediate action,” he said. “AB 797 provides a legal framework for a Good Samaritan to follow in order to remove an animal from a hot vehicle, without fear of legal repercussions. AB 797 will save lives.”