Good Samaritan law can help save vulnerable pets, people


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Under a new Florida law, you can’t be sued for breaking into a car to rescue an animal or a vulnerable person who appear to be in imminent danger.

photo by Carl Kotala

Hot summer months can make it increasingly dangerous to leave a pet or a vulnerable person in the suffocating environment of a parked car.

Well, now Florida residents can do something about it.

Under House Bill 131, which went into effect in March, it is now legal to break into a car in order to rescue a pet or a vulnerable individual — such as a child or an elderly person — who are in imminent danger.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott, is in direct response to the growing number of incidents where pets, children and others have died after being left in a car under Florida’s sweltering sun.

An individual cannot be sued for breaking into a vehicle to rescue someone as long as they comply with the mandates of the new law, which include:

  • Check first to make sure the car is not unlocked.
  • Call 911 law enforcement before, or immediately after, breaking into the vehicle.
  • Use no more force than is necessary to break in.
  • Remain on the scene with the person or the animal until first-responders arrive.

Florida is now the second state to have this kind of Good Samaritan law. Tennessee became the first when its law went into effect last summer.

Katherine Johnson, founder and president of the Friends for Animals Sanctuary — Brevard County’s first no-kill, no cage animal sanctuary — had this to say in an email:

“It’s about time. I’m so happy to learn that our legislation has finally come forward to make a step in the right direction so that animals and children or elders who are locked in cars will not have to suffer if there is a Good Samaritan who can legally break a window and stand by until Emergency Services arrive.”