Dogs in hot cars: Alabama Legislature to address issue
By Tanna Friday
TRUSSVILLE – Since the July 4 incident of a Trussville resident’s dog being left in an unattended hot car leading to its death, several Alabama lawmakers have responded and shared initiatives to prevent incidents like this from occurring in the future.
There are only 28 states that have laws pertaining to saving animals from being left in unattended hot cars, including two of our surrounding states – Tennessee and Florida, 11 of those grant the legal right to use any means necessary to rescue an animal in distress – including breaking a window.
Although there are laws in Alabama that protect animals from abuse, cruelty and neglect with penalties up to a felony charge, there are no laws prohibiting leaving an animal locked inside a hot car.
Last April Alabama House of Representative Chris England (D-Tusc.) introduced legislation that would addresses this issue. House Bill (HB524) introduced last April, under certain circumstances would allow a person who rescues an animal or child from a vehicle immunity from civil liability.
“…This bill would provide that a person who rescues another person or domestic animal from a vehicle when the person holds a good faith belief that the other person or domestic animal is in imminent danger of suffering bodily harm unless removed from the vehicle is immune from liability for property damage or injury under certain circumstances.” H.B. 524, 2017 Bicameral, 2017 Reg. Session. (Ala. 2017)
Rep. England drew an interest to this proposed legislation in March when students from Holt High School’s government and politics class invited him to the high school for a presentation to initiate change in regards to consequences of pet owners leaving an animal in a hot vehicle and protection for individuals that act to save the animal.
This legislation was introduced by England the next month. The bill was “indefinitely postponed” due to the Alabama Legislature’s (sine die) last day of session.
“The bill was introduced late in the session,” said England. “There wasn’t enough time to complete the legislative process. It didn’t pass because of opposition, but because of the time limitation. I don’t think that we will have that problem in the upcoming session.”
England said that this legislation was proposed to amend the current law §6-5-332, Ala. Code 1975 to include animals and children in the current law’s language. The current law titled “Persons rendering emergency care., at scene of accident, etc.” 6-5-332(a) reads :
“He or she shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of his or her acts or omissions in rendering first aid or emergency care, nor shall he or she be liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the injured person.”
Unfortunately, since the bill did not pass in the last session, the bill must be introduced again.
“Because of the recent case that occurred in Trussville, I think there will be a renewed momentum to pass this bill,” said Edwards. “After watching the video, I saw reverences from everyone who really didn’t know what to do.”
“I have already received a call from Representative Danny Garrett asking I have plans to reintroduce this legislation.”
Rep. Garrett, along with other members of the community expressed their own concern about the Trussville incident.
“What happened in the Walmart parking lot in Trussville was horrible, cruel and entirely preventable,” said Garrett. “I plan to work with my colleagues in the next legislative session to change the law and prevent incidents like this from happening to people and animals.”
When asking Rep. Garrett what citizens can do to help build momentum in influencing this bill along with other related legislation, he says communication is key.
“Legislators most certainly pay attention to and consider emails, phone calls and petitions they receive from their constituents,” said Garrett. “Sometimes groups will send “blast emails” to all legislators that are from people all over the state. These are not as effective because the volume is overwhelming and most often, the sender does not reside within a legislator’s district; however, when people who reside within a Representative’s or Senator’s district send emails or call, that is very effective and impactful.”
To contact your State Legislator and express your support or concerns on the upcoming legislation, please visit the Alabama Legislature.