May 28, 2020
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Maine proposal to let people save pets from cars appears dead

Robert F. Bukaty | AP
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
In this Friday photo, a dog in a vehicle parked outside a market waits for his owner to return, in Belfast. A proposal in Maine to allow residents to enter other people's vehicles to try to remove an endangered animal appears to be dead. The bill proposed a law change that a person acting in good faith who removed an animal from a vehicle would be immune to criminal or civil liability.

A proposal in Maine to allow residents to enter other people’s vehicles to try to remove an endangered animal appears to be dead.

The measure came before a committee of the Maine Legislature last year and received a disapproving vote. The bill proposed a law change that a person acting in good faith who removed an animal from a vehicle would be immune to criminal or civil liability.

The proposal is not up for consideration again this year, said Katie Hansberry, Maine senior state director for the Humane Society of the United States, which backed the bill.

One positive outgrowth of the proposal is that animal control officers in the state will now be trained to respond to situations in which an animal is in danger because it can’t escape a vehicle, Hansberry said. Such situations can arise when a dog is locked in a car for an extended period of time on a hot day.

“Even though the bill didn’t pass, a good thing that came out of the dialogue is there was awareness raised about that issue,” Hansberry said, adding that the proposal wasn’t “just going to let people go around and bash in car windows.”

Liam Hughes, director of the state’s Maine Animal Welfare Program, said responding to a distressed animal will now be part of basic training for all animal control officers looking to become certified. However, the state’s animal welfare advisory council felt allowing people to enter strangers’ cars to retrieve an animal would be a bad idea, he said.

“We’ve been trying really hard to get the education out there that if it’s a hot day and you have errands to run, leave your dog at home,” Hughes said. “That’s the best way to protect it.”

The proposal stated that the person entering the car would have to determine that “the motor vehicle is locked and there is no other reasonable means for exit” and then use “no more force than is reasonably necessary to enter the motor vehicle and retrieve the animal.”

State Sen. Michael Carpenter, D-Houlton, said the proposal raised concerns about “civil liberties and folks taking the law into their own hands.”

 


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