You might soon be able to legally smash a vehicle window to free an animal from the confines of a hot locked car. The Florida Senate is reviewing a new bill that would allow not only first responders and animal control officials to break a window to free someone's pet but also allow regular folks to do the same should they be instructed to do so by authorities.
The proposed bill was filed by Sen. Dorothy Hukill on Monday and allows for "reasonable force" to be used on a car that has an animal locked inside, including breaking a window or forcing open a lock.
Senate Bill 200 — titled the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety Act , or PAWS — specifically covers a rescuer legally should it come down to having to break into a vehicle to get to an animal locked inside. First responders such as police officers and fire rescue personnel, as well as animal control officers, would not be held liable if they break a window to rescue an animal that was left inside a locked car, according to the bill.
But the bill also covers samaritans who happen upon a car with a pet locked inside, should a police officer, fire rescue official, or 911 dispatcher specifically instruct the person to smash a window to get to the animal.
"Pets are extremely vulnerable to heat-related injury or death if left in a vehicle, especially on a hot day," Hukill said via a statement. "Individuals who risk their pets' lives by leaving them in hot cars need to be held accountable."
The bill says that it's purpose is to protect the well-being of animals who are in danger over being stuck in a hot car without ventilation, or a cold car, or has a lack of food or water. The animal must be immediately taken to an animal hospital, vet, animal shelter or other "place for safe keeping" as soon as they're rescued from the vehicle, the bill says.
Additionally, rescuers must leave a written note on the car explaining why a window was smashed, and the note must include an address to where the animal is being kept.
The bill also goes on to stress that an authorized person could break into the car only once reasonable effort has been made to locate the car's owner, and if the animal appears to be in immediate danger. The bill does not, however, include agriculture animals such as horses, pigs, cattle, sheep, or poultry.
The bill does not have a House companion.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.