New Colorado law allows forcible entry into a car to rescue at-risk animal or person

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Humane Society officials said this year there have been about 100 calls to the Humane Society in 2017 and nearly 70 percent of those have happened in June alone.

Wednesday is the first full day of summer, and animal experts are explaining how to keep your dog healthy in the heat.

“A day like today where it’ll reach 90 it’ll be over 120 degrees within 10 minutes inside that vehicle,” said the Director of Animal Law Enforcement at the Pikes Peak Humane Society Joe Stafford.

Stafford said in this heat it’s best to leave your pets at home where they will be safer and more comfortable.

“People are extremely concerned about this issue and they are very quick to call and we are extremely fast to respond,” said Stafford.

Stafford said that if you see a dog in a car that is barking frantically, panting, or is unresponsive, they ask you to take action and call them right away.

He explained that they take situations like this very seriously.  People who leave their dogs in hot cars, where animal control is required to take action, pet owners could face charges associated with animal cruelty and even possible jail time.

“The biggest consequence is the detriment to that animal, they can suffer long-term damage, and or death from being left unattended in a vehicle. No matter what we do to hold the owner accountable, nothing will ever change that,” said Stafford.

In April, Governor John Hickenlooper passed a new law, making it legal to forcibly enter a car to rescue an at-risk animal or person.

“I would have no problem doing that,” said dog owner Brandon Engelhardt. “If the dog was in there for 15-20 minutes and I can see that it’s starting to get tired and fatigue then ya, I’m going to break the window.”

The law has certain stipulations for the Good Samaritan before they are immune from criminal penalties for rescuing an animal or person from a vehicle.

The person must:

  • Have a reason to believe the pet is in immediate danger, could face death or serious medical complications
  • Only use necessary force and seek other methods to enter vehicle
  • Make an reasonable attempt to find the pet owner
  • Call authorities like police or animal control
  • Stay on scene until authorities arrive

“You are going to have some irresponsible people who are going to view the law as a chance to break someone’s window and destroy property, so I think that’s a very good stipulation,” Engelhardt said.

It’s very important to remember the above conditions, because any other situation where you break someone’s car window you could face charges of criminal mischief, theft, or property damage.

Although the Governor signed the bill back in April, the law doesn’t take effect until 90 days after that, making the effective date of the law August 9, 2017.

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