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Pet-in-Hot-Car Bill


Twenty-four states have laws regarding animals left unattended in hot cars, including two southern states (Tennessee and Florida).  That leaves eight states in the south and southeast without legal protection for pets trapped in hot cars, including Alabama.


Last month, with the help of Rep. Chris England a dozen students from Holt High School, with their ten college student mentors from the University of Alabama, traveled to Montgomery to address members of the Alabama House Judiciary Committee. They were there to urge passage of a bill which they helped to draft - the protection for pets in hot cars bill.

The bill made it clear that pets in hot cars should and must be afforded the same concern for their safety that young children and other vulnerable individuals are afforded and it spelled out the conditions under which a bystander could step in and intervene to save the life of a pet in this circumstance without incurring criminal liability. The conditions were reasonable, designed to ensure that a grave risk actually exists, sensible alternatives are considered, and property damage is minimized.

The students’ presentation to the committee received a round of applause, and committee members voted unanimously to make a favorable recommendation. However, the pet-in-a-hot-car bill was proposed late in the legislative session, and time just ran out.

The good news is that two other animal-related bills were passed. One included therapy dogs in the definition of service dogs in existing law that makes deliberate harassment of or injury to those working animals a criminal offense. The other allows a judge to expend funds to allow a therapy dog in court to assist vulnerable witnesses.

As we celebrate Memorial Day, and remember the courage and bravery of those members of our country’s armed forces who died for our freedoms, I am grateful to live in a country where all citizens can have a voice, even high school students who are too young to vote – yet. And I applaud their passion and determination to help the animals.

You can help by letting your representative know you care about the animals. You can also help by never leaving your pet in a closed car, even with the windows cracked, even on a mild day. If you can’t take your furry friend in with you when you stop, it’s better to leave it at home, safe and sound, when you’re speaking of pets.


Mindy Norton has been “Speaking of Pets” on Alabama Public Radio since 1995.
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