Law to protect Good Samaritans who rescue pets from hot cars about to take effect

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WESTFIELD, Ind. - A new law goes into effect July 1 that will help protect people who assist pets that are in distress because of the heat. 

Starting next month, a Good Samaritan who believes the pet is in immediate danger has the right to break into a vehicle to assist the animal without facing criminal charges.

However, that person will be financially responsible for 50 percent of the damages to the vehicle, unless the car owner wants to pay the entire bill.

The person also must stay at the scene with the animal until law enforcement officers arrive and call 911 before breaking into the vehicle.

“They have to be able to articulate that when they get up there, they felt the animal was in danger and then at that point in time they’ve got several different options," Hamilton County Animal Control Commander Doug Sanford said.

The person should always make sure the car is not running and the owner of pet is not in the area, Sanford said.

He added, while this law is good in theory he's concerned some animal lovers may be too passionate when it comes to pet safety.

“People can tend to be a little overzealous when animals are involved. It makes for the very good animal welfare situation we have in Hamilton County," Sanford said. "But at the same time, if you’re not trained and you don’t know what you’re looking for maybe you should just call 911 and wait for the experts to get there.”

Sanford said on an 80 degree day the temperature in a vehicle can rise to 110 degrees within 20 minutes.

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