Florida has recently experienced an increasing amount of cases of pets, children, and other vulnerable people being left in overheated cars. As a direct reaction to this problem, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill that will make it legal to break into a car to rescue pets or people that are believed to be in danger of suffocation or other harm.
The bill went into effect in early March, along with 16 other bills Scott signed into law. The new law comes just in time for Florida’s hot summer weather, when it is most dangerous to leave any person or animal inside a vehicle.
“Florida has seen much warmer than average temperatures in the last 12 months. In fact, the period from March 2015 through February 2016 ranked as the hottest on record for that stretch,” said Chris Dolce, meteorologist at weather.com.
In 2014, there were as many as 32 reports of children dying in hot cars, according to Kids and Cars. PETA reports that animals can sustain brain damage or die of heat stroke after just 15 minutes inside a hot car. The bill applies only to domesticated animals that may be kept in the home as pets (not livestock or other farm animals) and all people.
Under the new law, any person who breaks into a car in an attempt to save either a child or domesticated animal from suffering complications due to overheating, will not be held responsible for the damages to the vehicle. The individual cannot be sued, as long as they have done the following:
• Checked to make sure the vehicle is locked
• Have a reasonable belief that based on the present circumstances the person or animal trapped in the car is in imminent danger of suffering harm
• Called 911 either before or immediately after breaking into the vehicle
• Use only the necessary amount of force to free the trapped person or animal
• Remain with the person or animal until law enforcement arrives on the scene
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