State Politics

Idaho lawmakers want to let you save distressed dogs, without fearing consequences

Hot weather puts kids, pets in peril

Meridian Fire Department demonstrates hot cars can get warm enough in a summer day to bake cookies. Never leave a child or pet alone in a vehicle, as the temperature inside can easily rise beyond 100 degrees.
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Meridian Fire Department demonstrates hot cars can get warm enough in a summer day to bake cookies. Never leave a child or pet alone in a vehicle, as the temperature inside can easily rise beyond 100 degrees.

What can you do if you see a dog panting in a hot car in the sweltering summer heat? How about if your neighbor leaves Rufus out in the elements round the clock, regardless of freezing temperatures or falling snow?

If Idaho lawmakers succeed, you wouldn’t be in trouble for busting out a window to rescue Fido, and Rufus’ lack of shelter would be illegal. That’s thanks to two bills — Senate Bill 1244(aa), which is expected to pass this year; and another bill that experts predict will be introduced next year, according to a report by the (Twin Falls) Times-News.

The current Senate bill — “the hot dog bill,” lawmakers are calling it — “would provide immunity from civil liability and criminal prosecution for people giving certain kinds of aid to a pet in distress,” the Times-News reports.

“If you see a dog in a car in a parking lot — even if the window is cracked open — and the dog is foaming at the mouth, listless or panting, (the bill) gives you permission to remove the animal from the vehicle to save it,” said Lisa Kauffman, senior state director with The Humane Society of the United States.

The bill stipulates that a rescuer must believe the animal is in imminent danger, contact law enforcement and attempt to minimize damage to property in order to avoid legal consequences.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, uncovered an existing loophole in protections for children, too. “When writing the bill, senators realized Idaho has no similar protection for rescuing children from hot cars,” the Times-News reports. Nye sponsored another bill that would offer the same legal absolution for anyone rescuing a child in danger.

If the law passes, Idaho would join 11 states with existing or proposed “good Samaritan” laws that allow private citizens to rescue animals from a locked vehicle.

Experts don’t expect the second bill to hit our state until the 2019 session. According to the Times-News, Idaho legislators are waiting for Utah lawmakers to move on a bill that defines “shelter” for outdoor animals, before bringing that debate to the Statehouse in Boise.

Humane society supporters say an Idaho bill “would prohibit dogs from being held outdoors in freezing or sweltering weather without protection from the elements.”

Kauffman said agricultural producers are worried the bill would target their operations. According to Kauffman, the Humane Society and local legislators are taking time to ensure farmers don’t feel targeted by the future legislation.

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