Proposed NH Law Allows Citizens To Rescue Animals From Vehicles
We've heard the story time and time again; a pet owner brings their beloved companion with them to the store, lowers the windows a bit, and leaves them locked in the car. They think it will be fine because "it will only take a few minutes." For the owner, it's simply a shopping trip in a temperature controlled environment. For their trapped and defenseless animal, it's a nightmare. Including its title, HB 1394 is only a mere 138 words. However, those 138 words could mean the difference between the life or death of an animal left to suffer in a sweltering or frigid car.
What is HB 1394?
HB 1394 is a bill which would allow any person to take necessary steps to rescue an animal from endangerment of extreme temperatures while confined in a vehicle.
Hot/Cold Car Laws In The United States
Over half of the states in America have implemented some kind of 'hot/cold car law'. Some states limit the law to protect domestic or companion animals only, some states make it unlawful to leave any animal confined in a hot/cold vehicle, and some additionally grant immunity to law enforcement and other officials who must break into a vehicle to rescue an animal in danger.
'Good Samaritan' Laws
Eleven states, such as New Hampshire's neighbors Massachusetts and Vermont, currently have 'Good Samaritan' laws, which also allows citizens to rescue endangered animals from hot/cold vehicles, without being held liable for necessary damages.
Click here for a list of each state and their hot/cold car law.
Current NH Hot/Cold Car Law
Current NH law [RSA 644:8-aa], makes it unlawful to confine an animal in a motor vehicle (or other enclosed space) in which the temperature is either so high or so low as to cause serious harm to the animal. It also allows individuals to rescue an endangered animal from such a vehicle, without liability. However, that includes law enforcement and agents of a licensed humane organizations only.
Why Does NH Need A Good Samaritan Hot/Cold Car Law?
In low temperatures, vehicles are like refrigerators; they retain the cold. A car parked on a cold day, means a cold car within a few minutes of turning off the heat. In a warm environment, temperatures are not only maintained in vehicles, but they're also intensified. According to a study conducted by the Dept. of Geosciences at SFSU(1), when it's 70º outside the temperature in a vehicle will rise to approximately 89º within 10 mins, 99º in 20 mins, and 115º in an hour. Studies also show that rolling the window down is ineffective in keeping temperatures safe, even on a partly cloudy day.(2) Even air conditioning left on in a running vehicle cannot keep up with the heat and malfunctions sometimes occur.
With danger increasing every passing minute, despite their best efforts, law enforcement and humane organizations can't always make it time.
This leaves citizens who discover an animal in such danger, left to decide between being held liable for breaking into the vehicle or watching the animal suffer, or even die.
46 K9’s died due to heatstroke or extreme temperatures in law enforcement vehicles, between 2011 and 2015.(3) Some of those cases were due to air-conditioning malfunctions, where the A/C either startedblowing hot air, or caused the engine to cut off. Manufactures now have devices that can be installed in law enforcement vehicles, such as those offered by ACEK9.(4) The device is a heat alarm system, which will monitor the temperature in the vehicle and will sound if dangerous temperatures are reached. As last resort, it also includes a door-popping mechanism, which will open the vehicle door, allowing the dog to escape. These incidents involving law enforcement, and the need for such a devise in itself, demonstrates the importance of this matter.
Before one begins to imagine a crazed vigilantes running around New Hampshire and smashing car windows left and right, it is important to note that the proposed law comes with restrictions.
Before Breaking A Car Window To Free An Animal, HB 1394 Requires That:
Law enforcement has been contacted
A witness is present
The individual reasonably believes at the time that assistance will not arrive in time to prevent the serious injury or death of the confined animal.
On January 17th, the bill sponsor (Rep. Stone, Rockingham-Dist.1), proposed an amendment, based on testimony during the public hearing, to include the additional restrictions [2018-0160h]:
The individual makes a reasonable attempt to contact the animal owner.
The individual checks if the vehicle is unlocked
Upon removing the animal, the individual takes reasonable care of the animal and does not leave the scene until law enforcement arrives.
What Happens To Animals In Extreme Temperatures?
Cats, dogs, ferrets and other animals can suffer from hyperthermia and heatstroke. Symptoms include extreme panting/rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, dizziness, lethargy, seizures, organ failure, brain damage, and death. When an animal starts showing adverse reactions to the cold or heat, immediate action must be taken, as symptoms can worsen rapidly.
When it comes to extreme temperatures, every second counts. HB 1394 helps safeguard New Hampshire's animals, while also protecting residents from liability resulting from reasonable actions and a compassionate heart.
1. Attend The Public Hearing
A public hearing will be held in front of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. The committee will hear verbal testimony and collect written testimony from NH residents and stakeholders regarding HB1394.
Date: January 17th, 2018
Location: Legislative Office Building, 33 North State St., Concord, NH -Room 204
1a. Sign-In As Supporting HB 1394
When you arrive in room 204, there will be a 'sign-in' sheet (usually on blue paper), found on one of the tables where the representatives are sitting. Be sure the bill number at the top of the page is HB 1394, then put your name and town, and check off the Support Column.
1b. Submit Written Testimony
Prepare written testimony in support of HB 1394. If possible, print 22 copies (one per committee member, one for you). Leave the 21 copies on the table next to the sign-in sheet.
1c. Verbally Testify
Prepare verbal testimony. Usually the committee will allow approximately 3 mins. (sometimes more depending, but better to be prepared for less time than be cut off). After signing in, fill out a pink testimony card and leave it on the table next to the sign-in sheet.
Attending Hearings and Testimony Tips Here
2. Call The Committee - Before Jan 17th
Find your house representative(s) Here
Find the committee members here
Have a match? Call your representative(s)
Example: "Hello my name is (your name), I'm from (town) and I'm calling to urge your support of HB 1394, relative to animals in motor vehicles. This bill will allow citizens to rescue animals from vehicles, only after calling law enforcement and determining within reason that they will not arrive in time before the animal suffers serious injury or death from extreme temperatures."
3. Email The Committee - Before Jan 17th
Subject: Support HB 1394
Greeting: Dear Chairman Welch and Honorable Members of the House Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee,
Message: (Example above, feel free to add/edit as you wish.)
Sign Off: (End with a thank you and provide your name and address.)
01/17/2018: Straight Twist, as well as the Humane Society of the United States, testified in support of the bill, while the NH Guides' Assoc. and the Dog Owners of the Granite State (NH Federation of the American Kennel Club) testified against the bill. There was no other testimony. Based on testimony, the bill sponsor (Rep. Stone, Rockingham-Dist.1), proposed an amendment to include the additional restrictions [2018-0160h]; the individual makes a reasonable attempt to contact the animal owner; the individual checks if the vehicle is unlocked; upon removing the animal, the individual takes reasonable care of the animal and does not leave the scene until law enforcement arrives.
02/06/2018: The House Criminal Justice Committee voted against the bill, 18-2.
03/06/2018: Following a special order to remove the bill from the consent calendar by Rep. Verville (Rockingham-Dist. 2), to ensure a discussion occurred on the floor before the House voted to kill the bill, the House killed the bill despite the debate with a voice vote.
(1) 2003 J. Null, Department of Geosciences, San Francisco State University
(2) 1995 L. Gibbs, MPH D. Lawrence., MPH RN, CS; M. Kohn, MD., Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society, Volume 147(12)
(3) Adam Rodewald, USA Today Netork-Wisconsin, '46 police dogs died in hot squad cars', 2015, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/investigations/2015/10/09/46-police-dogs-died-hot-squad-cars-since-2011/73476592/, Last visited Jan 12, 2015
(4) 'K-9 Vehicle Heat Alarm Systems By AceK9', http://projectpawsalive.org/the-equipment/k-9-heat-alarms-for-k-9-unit-vehicles/, Last visited Jan 12, 2015
(5) 1995 L. Gibbs, MPH D. Lawrence., MPH RN, CS; M. Kohn, MD., Journal of the Louisiana State Medical Society, Volume 147(12)