Bill would pro­tect those who dam­age hot cars to save pets

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO - By Ben Brasch [email protected]

A state se­na­tor from East Cobb is try­ing to throw a bone to those who res­cue an­i­mals from hot cars.

State Sen. Kay Kirk­patrick, R-Ma­ri­etta, has pro­posed an amend­ment, Sen­ate Bill 32, that would pro­tect cit­i­zens from a law­suit if they dam­age a ve­hi­cle to res­cue an an­i­mal in dan­ger.

She said the idea came out of the Sen­ate com­mit­tee study­ing whether laws were needed to reg­u­late ser­vice or sup­port an­i­mals. Kirk­patrick said she has a 14-yearold golden doo­dle ther­apy dog named Do­bie, “so they put me on that com­mit­tee.”

As she looked into the cur­rent pro­tec­tions for an­i­mals, “I started notic­ing that there was noth­ing in there for some­one try­ing to res­cue an an­i­mal in dis­tress.”

Kirk­patrick said she is adding lan­guage to an ex­ist­ing law pro­tect­ing those who res­cue chil­dren from cars. It was passed in the wake of the high-pro­file death of 22-month-old Cooper Har­ris, who was killed by his father, Justin Ross Har­ris, in a hot car in Cobb County dur­ing 2015. Har­ris was sen­tenced to life with­out pa­role.

In her bill, any­one who breaks a win­dow to res­cue an an­i­mal in dis­tress must also call 911 to be im­mune from civil li­a­bil­ity.

“That would mit­i­gate the pos­si­bil­ity of some­one just kid­nap­ping an an­i­mal” or break­ing a win­dow and later claim­ing it was to save an an­i­mal, she said.

The se­na­tor said she didn’t want the bill to get into the time lim­its and tem­per­a­ture thresh­olds be­cause “that’s when bills get in trou­ble, when you get too spe­cific.”

“I’m hop­ing any­body who’s rea­son­able and act­ing in good faith would give it a minute ... be­fore they go break some­body’s win­dow,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, the tem­per­a­ture in­side a car on an 80-de­gree day can rise 20 de­grees within the first 10 min­utes, even with the win­dow cracked.

Be­cause most hot car deaths of chil­dren are ac­ci­den­tal, some au­to­mo­tive com­pa­nies have in­stalled fea­tures to alert driv­ers to some­thing in their back seats be­fore getting out of the car.

Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett, D-Ma­ri­etta, has pro­posed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion, Sen­ate Bill 31, that would make law en­force­ment of­fi­cers not li­able for break­ing a ve­hi­cle win­dow to save a per­son or pet.

Kirk­patrick said her pro­posal would be heard in the Spe­cial Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which is led by Sen. Jen­nifer Jor­dan, D-At­lanta. Kirk­patrick said Thurs­day that a hear­ing date had not yet been set.

She said she doesn’t ex­pect much prob­lem. “This is not that kind of a bill.”

State Sen. Kay Kirk­patrick is adding lan­guage on pets to ex­ist­ing law.

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