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Idaho lawmakers look to protect folks who break into hot cars to rescue suffering pets

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 14, 2018, 9:54 p.m.

Buddy, a  6-year-old chihuahua poses for a photo as he sits in her owner Leslie Mitchams car. Good Samaritans who break into cars to save hot dogs would  receive legal protection under a bill that cleared an Idaho Senate committee Wednesday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Buddy, a 6-year-old chihuahua poses for a photo as he sits in her owner Leslie Mitchams car. Good Samaritans who break into cars to save hot dogs would receive legal protection under a bill that cleared an Idaho Senate committee Wednesday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Legislation to grant legal immunity to people who break into a hot car to rescue a suffering pet has cleared an Idaho Senate committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to send the bill to the Senate’s amending order for a series of changes; a motion to kill the bill died for lack of a second. Hundreds of dogs are being left in hot cars in Idaho each year, senators were told; some die, and some suffer irreversible brain damage.

“In the past 12 months, we have responded to 230 calls for dogs in hot cars,” Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, CEO of the Idaho Humane Society in Boise, told the senators. “We don’t always show up on time, unfortunately. So we support this bill. Heat stroke, I can tell you as a veterinarian, is insidious, it can happen very quickly.” The calls start coming in early in the spring, he said.

Sen. Mark Nye, D-Pocatello, said, “The bad effects can happen so fast. … Other states have faced the same issue and come to the conclusion that this is a way to encourage people not to have their dogs at risk, and to keep people who would like to help to not hesitate when it’s reasonably necessary.”

Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, a former police officer, told Nye, “Your heart’s in the right place, and I understand and I appreciate that. But … it could be stated that we have no need for this new law because we have a system in place which involves calling the police.”

Foreman tried unsuccessfully to kill the bill; he ended up as the only vote against sending it to the full Senate for amendments.

“This is a piece of legislation that we all desperately want to support, that’s my observation,” said Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Burley. “So there appears to be the need, at least, to parse through some of the language to make sure that it’s right and it’s an effective statute when it gets there.”

The same committee also sent a similar bill from Nye covering not dogs, but people, to the full Senate for amendments. Nye said it would cover situations in which a child is left in a hot car, and a passerby breaks in to rescue the child.

“This bill is designed to save lives and protect those who are offering rescue,” Nye said. “It’s preventative, it’s to minimize and prevent injury and damage to our kids.”


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