A suburban Dayton town is weighing whether or not to pass a new ordinance that would provide protections for Good Samaritans who break into strangers' cars in order to save animals during extreme weather. If the law passes, these actors would not face criminal charges.
The city council of Beavercreek, Ohio met Monday night and unanimously approved the measure, the Dayton Daily News reports. The measure will now be subject to a heretofore unscheduled public hearing.
Under current Ohio law, "the owner of a vehicle that is broken into could file criminal charges against a person who breaks into a vehicle to save a pet." This legislation, which would be the first of its kind in the state, would not, however, protect rescuers from civil suits.
Stephen McHugh, the city law director, told the Dayton Daily News that certain conditions must be met in order for the actions of Good Samaritans to be exempt from criminal charges.
“There has to be reasonable methods to determine the car is locked,” he said. “You have to have good faith belief forcible entry of the vehicle is necessary because the animal is in eminent danger. You need have contacted either a police department, fire department or 911 prior to actually doing this.”
Only 18 states have so far made it illegal to leave animals in confined vehicles (full list here), but there have been some cases, according to Michigan State University Law School, where people who have left animals in cars have been convicted under broader anti-cruelty laws. However, Tennessee is currently the only state to have a Good Samaritan Law extension that allows people to break into cars in order to save pets. That law protects against civil liability as well.
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