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Bill would give OK to save animals from hot cars

A 27-year-old woman is being charged with leaving her dog inside a hot car at Jacksonville University. The dog was believed to be in the car for 90 minutes.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – People would be able to smash the windows of hot cars and remove unattended dogs or cats after getting law enforcement approval, under a bill proposed Monday.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, filed a proposal (SB 200) that would allow individuals -- first responders, animal-control officers and people instructed by such agencies -- to gain access to vehicles and remove unattended animals when the animals' health is endangered and the owners "after a reasonable effort" can't be found.

"Pets are extremely vulnerable to heat-related injury or death if left in a vehicle, especially on a hot day," Hukill said in a prepared statement. "Individuals who risk their pets' lives by leaving them in hot cars need to be held accountable."

Hukill called the proposal the "Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety Act," or "P.A.W.S. Act."

Hukill's release noted that "just last week two women in the Daytona area left their dogs in the car while they went shopping at a mall. The dogs were so thirsty they were licking the condensation off a soda can in the car and when let out of the vehicle by police they found the closest puddle of water and began drinking it."

The bill would make such circumstances a first-degree misdemeanor for the owners of the pets or the vehicles involved. The measure would allow the people who enter the vehicles to avoid criminal or civil liability.

Hukill's proposal, which doesn't have a House companion, also notes the well-being of an animal could be threatened due to cold, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water.

The bill includes a provision that carves out an exemption for agriculture animals -- horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, poultry, or other agricultural animals -- being transported for ag purposes.