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Posted on: July 18, 2016

Florida Heat can be Deadly to People and Pets Left in Cars

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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. Per Florida Statute 768.139, a person who enters a motor vehicle, by force or otherwise, for the purpose of removing a vulnerable person or domestic animal is immune from civil liability for damage to the motor vehicle if the person: (a) Determines the motor vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the vulnerable person or domestic animal to exit the motor vehicle without assistance. (b) Has a good faith and reasonable belief, based upon the known circumstances, that entry into the motor vehicle is necessary because the vulnerable person or domestic animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm. (c) Ensures that law enforcement is notified or 911 called before entering the motor vehicle or immediately thereafter. (d) Uses no more force to enter the motor vehicle and remove the vulnerable person or domestic animal than is necessary. (e) Remains with the vulnerable person or domestic animal in a safe location, in reasonable proximity to the motor vehicle, until law enforcement or other first responder arrives. There are 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 and Cars. •PETA says that animals can sustain brain damage or die of heatstroke in just 15 minutes in a hot car.

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