In 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill making it legal to break into locked vehicles to rescue pets or vulnerable people believed to be in mortal danger from overheating. The bill provides immunity from civil liability for the damage caused by breaking a window, or forcing a lock, or doing whatever else is necessary for rescue -- but only if certain steps are also taken. Tennessee and Wisconsin have similar laws.
Under the new Florida statute, you won’t be sued for breaking in if you’ve made sure the vehicle is locked, are reasonably sure someone or something is in imminent danger, and only if you’ve called 911 or contacted the police before breaking in. You also must remain at the scene until the first responders arrive.
Deadly consequences from careless acts:
- The Florida law only covers domestic animals, meaning mainly household pets. It does not include livestock.
- In 2015, there were 25 reports of children who died from heatstroke after being left in hot cars in the United States, according to the organization Kids andCars.
- PETA says that animals can sustain brain damage or die of heatstroke in just 15 minutes in a hot car.