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Who let the dogs out (of the hot car)? If new law passes, it could be you




An ice sculpture is placed in a vehicle to warn of the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car on April 9, 2014 in London, England.
An ice sculpture is placed in a vehicle to warn of the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car on April 9, 2014 in London, England.
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for Dogs Trust

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What do you do if you see a dog locked in a car on a hot day? Do you try to find the owner? Maybe you call the police? Or do you take matters into your own hands and try to free the dog yourself?

If passed, AB 797 would allow ordinary citizens to break a stranger’s car window to save a dog trapped in a hot (or cold) car without fear of being prosecuted. The “Right to Rescue” Act, was proposed by Rancho Cucamonga Republican Assemblyman Marc Steinorth, and it comes with a few caveats. You can’t just go busting in someone’s window just because you see a dog in the car. In order to avoid prosecution, a person would have to make sure the car is locked, rule out all other “reasonable” methods for freeing the dog, and have a “good faith belief” that the animal is in danger if not immediately rescued. Once the glass is broken, the Good Samaritan must wait with the dog until authorities arrive.

Unlike humans, dogs do not sweat through their skin. They pant to cool off instead. Because dogs can’t sweat like humans, they overheat much faster than humans. If left in a hot car, it could only take minutes before inducing brain damage or organ failure. The American Veterinary Association reports that on a 70 degree day, the temperature inside a car can get up to 89 degrees in 10 minutes and 99 degrees in 20 minutes.

What do you think of the concept behind this law? Are there any situations that come to mind where the law might not give clear direction on who is liable?

Guests:

Marc Steinorth (District 40 - R), Assemblyman representing California's 40th District, which includes Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands and San Bernardino. He introduced Assembly Bill 797

Michael Kraut, criminal defense lawyer, Kraut Law Group, and former Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney