CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. — A new Virginia law that just took effect on July 1 most likely helped save a dog’s life that was left inside a hot car in Chesterfield on July 31.
Chesterfield Police said Cecilia Anthony left her dog inside her hot vehicle parked outside Chesterfield Towne Center.
They said the dog was in distress, so responding officers broke the vehicle’s window to save the dog’s life.
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This law was a bill that the Federation supported in its current form. It allows police, firemen, and other first responders to break into a car to save a pet in distress and protects them from liability for property damage.
The bill that was initially presented allowed any citizen to break into a car to retrieve an animal they believed to be in distress. We opposed the law in that form for a number of reasons, primarily that the average person has no way of knowing whether an animal is in distress.
Many people leave the car running with the air conditioner on or with other arrangements made for the pet for a short time in the car. In addition, animal fanatics might assume that any animal left in a car is in distress. We just saw far too much potential for abuse of the law.
In addition, the proposed bill made no requirement for the person breaking into the car to remain with the pet until the owner returned. If the dog escaped, there was no liability. The dog could even potentially bite the person breaking into the car, opening a whole new legal can of worms!
The law that finally passed is a good one. If you see a dog you believe is in distress, call 911 amd report it. The first responder will make an assessment and can legally break into the car and assist the animal.