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Colorado law now protects people who break into hot cars to save children, pets

August 9, 2017 Updated: August 10, 2017 at 5:59 am
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FILE - In this July 30, 2015 file photo, St. Mary's and Safe Kids Coalition uses a wireless monitor to record the temperature outside and inside of a closed vehicle at St. Mary's Market Days in Evansville, Ind. A proposed new law that would require carmakers to build alarms for backseats is being pushed by child advocates who say it will prevent kids from dying in hot cars and also streamline the criminal process against caregivers who cause the deaths, cases that can be inconsistent but often heavier-handed against mothers. The latest deaths came in Arizona on triple-digit degree days over the last weekend of July 2017. (Darrin Phegley/Evansville Courier & Press via AP, File)

A state law effective Wednesday lets people smash car windows in a verifiable emergency that has children or pets in imminent danger of death or serious injury.

House Bill 1179 protects good Samaritans from civil and criminal liability if they first made sure the doors were locked, tried to find the vehicle owner, notified law enforcement and waited a reasonable time for police to respond.

They also must have a reasonable belief that the child or animal is in imminent danger.

Seven children have died in locked cars in Colorado since 1998; the state ranks 29th in the nation for such deaths, a San Jose State University study found.

Figures for deaths and rescues in Colorado Springs were not immediately available Wednesday, but police spokesman Lt. Howard Black said it is a problem.

"Is it something that happens? Yes," Black said. "Most of them involve children, but we do have requests for pets."

Figures kept by the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region paint a much more dramatic picture of pets in danger.

The society was called 296 times during June, July and August of 2016 for pets trapped in hot cars in the city, spokeswoman Gretchen Pressley said.

Another 192 cases were reported to the society's centers in Pueblo, Centennial and Douglas County, Pressley said.

In only seven of the 488 calls, though, did the agency intervene to remove the animals from the vehicles and cite the owners, she said.

Police woud prefer that people not take the law into their own hands, Black said. He strongly recommends that people "wait until we get there" before breaking a window.

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Contact Kaitlin Durbin: 636-0362

Twitter: @njKaitlinDurbin

Facebook: Kaitlin Durbin

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