New law allows first responders to save pets from cars

Until now, only police could avoid liability for damaging a vehicle in order to rescue a pet. A new law allows firefighters and emergency medical professionals the same protection when they help pets. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a law expanding the number of public officials able to rescue animals from hot or cold unattended vehicles.

Until now, only police could escape liability for damaging a vehicle in order to rescue a pet. The new law says firefighters and emergency medical professionals will not be liable when they help pets.

The law takes effect immediately, with hopes to reduce wait times when law enforcement availability is limited.

On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to 100 degrees in minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach up to 109 degrees in less than ten minutes.

If left in hot cars, animals could suffer brain damage or die from heatstroke, sometimes in as little as 15 minutes, according to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals website. Symptoms include restlessness, excessive thirst, thick saliva, heavy panting, vomiting and lack of coordination.

Once an animal is removed from the car, it needs to be put into an air-conditioned vehicle and taken to a veterinarian immediately, the site stated.

Dale C. Herman, chief of the City of Watertown Fire Department, said they rarely get calls to help a pet, but get calls for children regularly.

“All of our engines have devices that allow us to enter the vehicle without any damage,” Chief Herman said. “If we’re called to assist [an animal], we would use the same techniques as we would for a child.”

Bruce G. Wright, president and CEO of Guilfoyle Ambulance Service, said they usually don’t get called to these scenes, but if they did, they’d have to break a window. Ambulances and fly cars, he explained, don’t have the same devices the fire trucks do.

Pets are also not able to ride in ambulances, unless they are service animals or police K-9s.

“I can’t bring them to an animal hospital,” Mr. Wright said.

Mr. Wright said it boils down to doing the “right thing.”

“You should always exercise responsibility and caution when leaving your pets alone in a vehicle,” Mr. Wright said. “Pet owners have a responsibility to their animal. It’s a life.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(2) comments

CShap

I have a sticker in my car window that reads, "Too Hot for Spot!" That's why my three pups home when I'm out. This is a great move.

LucyP

Good. Being locked in a hot car is a life-or-death emergency, and rescuers should be able to take action to prevent animals from suffering agonizing deaths from heatstroke.

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