A new law to help keep pets and people safe during hot summer months took effect Aug. 9.
“The more people we can educate, the more people we can get to help,” said Jefferson County Deputy Amy Perasso. “If you see a pet, at-risk person or child locked in a hot car, then at least call 911. We encourage everyone to let us know because we want to help.”
To learn more about the new law, visit https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1179.
What is the new law?
Called Immunity For Emergency Rescue From Locked Vehicle, the law states that persons rendering emergency assistance to a pet, defined as a cat or dog; an at-risk person; or child in a parked vehicle is exempt from criminal and civil liability.
What that means, Perasso said, is that anybody making an effort to help a pet or person locked in a hot car has immunity from both criminal and civil prosecution, as long as that person has a reasonable belief that the pet or person is in danger of serious bodily injury or death.
What is reasonable emergency assistance?
If somebody sees a pet or person locked in a hot car, first notify law enforcement by calling 911. Once law enforcement is aware of the situation, the person should then try to find the owner. If the person cannot locate the owner, then reasonable measures to render aid can take place.
A reasonable effort does not include taking a baseball bat to the car window, for example, Perasso said. Appropriate action would be to first check to see if all the car doors are locked. If they are, then look for a window that is cracked enough to reach an arm in.
If you can get the pet or person out of the vehicle, the first thing to do is to cool down the pet or person by providing drinking water and a cooler environment, such as a shaded area. If the pet or person appears to be in great distress, then get them to a professional — a veterinarian or doctor — who can administer proper emergency care.
How do you know when to take action?
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will automatically start seeking out an owner if it is 72 degrees or warmer outside, Perasso said, because it will be hotter inside the vehicle.
“It doesn’t take long for an animal in a hot car to get very sick,” said Jenny Lepro, a code enforcement and animal management officer with the Golden Police Department.
With animals, a number of signs demonstrate whether the pet is suffering from heat distress, she said. Some of these include heavy panting, excessive drooling, dark red gums, rapid respiration and a change in behavior from initial contact.
Why is this important?
Colorado weather is unpredictable, so almost any time of the year can produce weather warm enough that it is unsafe to leave a pet or person locked in a car.
But the peak time of the year that the Golden Police Department receives the highest amount of related calls is March through October.
“If you can’t sit in your car comfortably with the air conditioner off and only the windows cracked, then your pet won’t be comfortable, either,” Lepro said. “Leave them at home if you can’t take them with you everywhere you’re going.”