Cook: Protecting citizens who rescue animals left in hot cars

Posted by: Devan Strebing & Shelby Seay  | Friday, February 10, 2017

Even when the outside temperature is as low as 72 degrees, the interior temperature of a car can reach up to 116 degrees within an hour. Rolling down or cracking windows is still not enough to affect the inside temperature of the vehicle in order to make it a safe environment for animals. If pets are exposed to this type of heat for a period of time, not only are they suffering, but they could also endure permanent organ damage and death.

Many people who see an animal stuck in a hot car will alert the police, who have the authority to act. But in those instances when public safety officers cannot immediately respond, citizens may step in, and these individuals deserve legal protections. I am working on a new law that would provide protections to individuals who use force to rescue animals left in hot vehicles.

Currently, Indiana is one of 27 states that does not have any law protecting citizens who rescue pets left unattended in hot vehicles. I want to change that by providing people immunity from civil liability for property damage resulting from removing animals in these dangerous, even life-threatening situations.

There are about 13,600 community animal shelters and control agencies nationwide and they receive at least one to two calls per day reporting pets left in hot cars. That amounts to 13,600 to 27,200 pets being neglected in unattended cars every day. That does not include the number of 911 calls that police departments receive across the country. I hear of these stories and I want to help people who remove pets from these careless situations.

According to the director of Fort Wayne Animal Care and Control, there were 269 calls received for dogs being left in vehicles from May 1 through Sept. 30, 2016. In addition, nearly half of the animal-neglect calls were in response to animals left inside a car. The average interior temperature of these vehicles were between 90 and 130 degrees, and an officer’s average response time ranged from five to 20 minutes.

With my proposal, people who rescue an animal from a vehicle would be required to first notify law enforcement and could only use a reasonable amount of force to remove the animal. Those individuals would also be responsible for waiting with the pet until an officer arrives on the scene. This bill would only apply to domestic, household pets and would not include livestock.

Indiana does not have any laws regarding animals left inside unattended vehicles, but Marion County does have an ordinance that forbids pets from being left outside when the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.

It is important that Hoosiers are not punished for doing the right thing and stepping up to rescue animals from enduring terrible suffering. Please contact me with any questions or comments at H32@iga.in.gov or call 317-232-9793.

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State Rep. Tony Cook (R-Cicero) represents House District 32, which includes all of Tipton County and portions of Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Howard and Grant counties.

A high-resolution photo of Cook can be downloaded by clicking here.