State bill could protect good Samaritans who try to save animals in hot cars

By Sarah Acosta - Reporter, Jennifer Galvan - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - At least one dog dies every year from being left in a hot car in San Antonio, and Animal Care Services says that's one too many.

State lawmakers have filed a bill that could potentially help prevent these types of animal deaths.

The Domestic Animal Good Samaritan Bill, if passed, would protect well-intended people who break a car window to rescue an animal trapped in a hot car from civil liability, but only after they call police.

Shannon Sims, assistant director of Animal Care Services, said time is everything when it comes to saving an animal from dying while in a hot car.

“With the San Antonio summers in particular, where its 95 degrees, temperatures were up to 125 to 135 degrees inside a vehicle in a mere 10 minutes,” Sims said.

Currently, only first responders are allowed to do this. If you break a window to save a dog, you could be held liable for any damages by the car owner.

“We take it very seriously,” Sims said. “We consider it our highest priority calls. Unfortunately, San Antonio being as large as it is, it's hard to say will if a police officer get there in time.”

Jonathan Hickman said he loves his dogs Chance and Chloe like children.

“We try to take them wherever we can,” Hickman said.

Leaving the dogs in the car by themselves is something he never does.

“It's pretty much torture,” Hickman said. “I know I can't be in a hot car for more than a minute.”

Hickman said he hopes the bill passes, and if it does, he said he would definitely not hesitate to save an overheated dog.

“If I knew I had that protection, I would definitely break a window to save a dog,” he said.

If an animal dies in a hot car, ACS said, that is animal cruelty, a state felony. It could land you in jail for two years and cost you up to a $10,000 fine.

During the last legislative session, a law was passed that also protects good Samaritans who break car windows to rescue a child, but anyone doing so should always call 911 first.

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