Who should pay for damages when rescuing pets from hot cars?

By Ashley Steeb

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers are at odds over whether people who rescue animals from a hot car should pay to repair damages to the vehicle.

House Bill 1085 would allow someone to break into a vehicle if they reasonably believe the animal is in true danger, contact law enforcement or 911, use no more than the appropriate force to rescue the animal, and wait with the animal until assistance arrives.

The Senate added an amendment to the bill that would make the rescuer responsible for all repair costs. The only people who could receive immunity from the costs would be a police officer, fire department officer, veterinarian and veterinarian assistant.

Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, said the changes weren’t made to discourage people from rescuing animals from hot cars, but hold them responsible for their actions.

“Here in the Senate we thought, hey if you feel that strongly about it, then you ought to pay for the window,” Hershman said after the bill passed the Senate last week.

During Thursday’s conference committee meeting where lawmakers hope to resolve their differences before voting whether to send the bill to the governor, Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, said she thinks the Senate made amendment is silly.

“When you break the window and then you call law enforcement and find out who the people are and their dog is dead — they’re not going to be saying, ‘You have to pay for my window’,” Lawson said. “They’re going to be hoping they’re not charged with animal cruelty and animal abuse and neglect.”

Despite her reservations, Lawson said she will vote for the bill with the amendment so animals wills have some type of protection.

The author of the bill, Rep. Anthony Cook, R-Cicero, said he wants a bill to pass so data can be collected to see how many animals are affected by overheating in cars.

“That’s where we’re trying to come with a happy, somewhat happy medium to start as a blue print,” Cook said. “I think Indiana needs a bill. It needs a law. It needs to be watched. It needs to be looked at.”

Ashley Steeb is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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