First Responders Can Now Save Animals Free From Civil Liability
A new Nevada law signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval makes locking your pet in a hot vehicle a crime.
Senate Bill 409, primarily sponsored by State Senators Mark Manendo, Nicole Cannizzaro, and David Parks, raises locking a dog or cat in a hot car to the same level as locking a child in one, according to a News 3 Las Vegas report. The bill, signed into law on June 4, 2017, establishes locking a pet in a hot car as a misdemeanor with potential fines reaching $1,000. Those convicted could also be jailed for up to six months.
The new law designates allowing “a cat or dog to remain unattended in a parked or standing motor vehicle during extreme hot or cold weather or in any other manner that endangers the health and safety” of the animal as animal cruelty. This designation allows law enforcement, firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and animal control officers to use “any force that is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances to seize the animal, including breaking a window.
The law carves out specific exceptions for animals currently being used by federal law enforcement agencies or search and rescue organizations for official use. Dogs under the possession of animal control officers or first responders during an emergency are exempt from the law, as well as dogs owned by someone actively engaged in licensed hunting activities.
The new law also protects individuals authorized to rescue those animals from any civil liability.
Robert Smith, Washoe County Regional Animal Services manager, told a state senate committee they answer an average of 400 to 500 calls of pets locked in hot cars each summer. Clark County Animal Control reported responding to more than 200 calls a day in the summer, including animals locked in vehicles or simply left outside.
According to an article published by the Clark County Bar Association, the Humane Society of the United States initially lobbied for the bill to also protect good Samaritans who rescued a pet. The proposed language suggested by the Humane Society would have allowed someone “with a good faith belief that an animal was in imminent danger” to forcibly enter a vehicle to save the animal after first alerting the authorities. That individual would then remain with the pet until the authorities arrived.
Ultimately, those protections were not expanded to good Samaritans.
The new law also required peace officers and animal control officers to take possession of a pet rescued from a hot car if they deem the animal a cruelty victim.
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