Protecting Companion Animals in Hot Cars (Texas)
Civil liability for removing certain animals from a motor vehicle (HB 3756/SB 2421)
This pair of companion bills protect Good Samaritans who rescue domestic companion animals from motor vehicles by granting civil immunity under certain circumstances. “Good Samaritan” laws like this one have been enacted in 14 states which require rescuers to take a number of commonsense steps before entering the vehicle.
March 21, 2023
Every year, dogs left in hot cars die. These deaths are entirely avoidable. In only a few minutes, a car heats up to deadly levels. On a 70 degree day, the temperature inside a car can shoot up to 89 degrees in just 10 minutes. On a warmer day, the temperature can reach 114 degrees in the same amount of time. Leaving the window open does nothing to reduce the temperature.
Dogs and other companion animals are particularly vulnerable to dying from heatstroke because they do not cool themselves like humans. They have a harder time maintaining a comfortable body temperature. In response to this problem, multiple states have enacted “dogs in hot cars” laws.
Despite its often hot temperatures, Texas is not yet one of them.
Proposed legislation, HB 3756/SB 2421, sponsored by Representative Lulu Flores (D-51) and Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-21), would protect Good Samaritans in Texas who rescue domestic animals (dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals that are kept as companion animals) from motor vehicles by granting civil immunity under certain circumstances. As of 2020, 14 states have these “Good Samaritan” laws. Like the Texas bill, these laws require rescuers to first take a number of common sense steps before entering the vehicle.
The bills would require the rescuer to first check that the motor vehicle is locked, there is no reasonable method for the animal to leave the vehicle without assistance, and have a good faith and reasonable belief that rescue is required to avoid imminent harm to the animal. Finally, the rescuer must ensure that law enforcement is notified first and remain with the animal near the vehicle until police arrive.
These are commonsense bills that build on previous legislation. In 2017, Texas passed a Good Samaritan law for children and other vulnerable individuals left in vehicles. Unfortunately, animals were left out of the final version of the bill that passed into law. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is working closely with the bills’ sponsors to ensure that this year animals are protected too.
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