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What you should know about the new “hot car immunity law”
It’s hot. The sun is blasting. And there in the parking lot, you see a dog in a parked, hot car. The windows are cracked and the car is in the shade, but the dog is panting. You think the pet is in danger. So what can you do about it?
On Aug. 9, 2017, a “hot car immunity law” will go into effect in Colorado that provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for a person who forcibly enters a locked vehicle for the purpose of rendering assistance to an at-risk person or animal.
While the law provides immunity from liability, this doesn’t mean you can break a car window as soon as you see a pet inside a hot vehicle. In order to receive immunity from civil or criminal liability, you must follow specific protocol:
- Ensure the vehicle is not a law-enforcement vehicle.
- Have a reasonable belief that the person or animal inside the vehicle is in imminent danger of death or of suffering serious bodily injury.
- Animal is defined as cat or dog—this law does not apply to livestock.
- Verify that the vehicle is locked and that forcible entry is necessary.
- Make a reasonable effort to locate the owner or operator of the vehicle.
- Contact law enforcement or other first-responder agency prior to forcibly entering the vehicle, and do not interfere with the actions of any such responding law-enforcement agency.
- Use no more force than reasonably necessary to enter the locked vehicle.
- Remain with the at-risk person or animal in a safe location close to the vehicle until law enforcement or other first responder arrives at the scene.
- If the person rendering assistance has to leave the scene before the owner or operator of the vehicle returns, prior to leaving the scene, the person rendering assistance shall leave a notice on the vehicle with his or her name and contact information and the name and location, if any, of the facility to which he or she took the at-risk person or animal. Also prior to leaving the scene, the person rendering assistance shall contact law enforcement, animal control or other first responder to provide them with the same information.
If you find yourself in a situation where you think a cat or dog in a hot car is in danger and you are considering forcibly entering a vehicle to rescue the animal, be sure to follow this protocol in order to receive immunity from criminal and civil liability.
One other thing to keep in mind is your own safety. You should not put yourself or the community in harm’s way by removing a potentially dangerous animal from a vehicle. If you have any suspicion that the animal could be aggressive, call 9-1-1 immediately so authorities can properly handle the situation.
For more information and to read the exact language of the law, visit Colorado.gov.