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New law protects good Samaritans when rescuing children and pets from hot vehicles — with some conditions

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New law protects good Samaritans when rescuing children and pets from hot vehicles — with some conditions.

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 new bill aims to aid people who find kids or dogs in hot cars, and want to help without the fear of criminal or civil liabilities. HB 2732 recently passed unopposed in the Oregon Senate and Gov. Kate Brown signed it in to law on June 22.

You've seen it before. A 95-degree day and there's a pup panting, enclosed in a sealed vehicle. Or worse: an infant strapped to its child seat, sweating and crying for help. But did you know that it takes only 10 minutes for a car up to heat 110 degrees on an 80-degree day?

"There are cases of children dying on days as cool as 70 degrees Fahrenheit," said Researcher Catherine McLaren, MD, in a 2005 Stanford Medicine report that measured the temperature rise inside a parked car on sunny days with highs from 72 to 96 degrees F.

With that long-touted 300 days of sunshine per year in Central Oregon, cars can reach beyond 100 degrees in a matter of minutes because car windows absorb the sun's rays; insulating the inside. "It's not fairly uncommon to receive calls multiple times a day, regarding pets and infants trapped in vehicles," says Sgt. Tom Pine of the City of Bend Police Department.

HB2732 allows for reasonable force — for example, the breakage of windows — to remove a child or animal in imminent danger and moments away from suffering harm. Such persons would not be subject to criminal or civil liability, provided they call the police either before or after breaking into the vehicle and remain relatively close to the scene.

Text Example

"We go back to that common sense approach though, so if it's 95 degrees out and I have the a/c on and am still sweating like a pig, no pun intended, then I know it's a more dire situation than on a 68-degree day."

— Sgt. Tom Pine

"There's a high threshold with what a police officer in contrast to what a lay person will deem as imminent harm," cautions Pine, "If a child or animal is not showing signs of distress and a person broke in, then they wouldn't be protected."

Although calls come in daily regarding hot cars, there have been no incidents of good Samaritans breaking into vehicles in the City of Bend since the law's passage, according to Sgt. Pine. When officers do receive those calls, they require a common sense approach.

"There isn't a temperature point that is a definitive point as to when we will act," says Pine. "Officers are trained to assess the entire situation and make a judgement call based on a common sense approach. When a life needs to be saved, yes, they will break windows."

Pine says officers have tools that can measure the inside air temperature from the exterior. Most officers also have access to crowbars and leveraging tools. "We go back to that common sense approach though, so if it's 95 degrees out and I have the a/c on and am still sweating like a pig, no pun intended," jokes Pine, "then I know it's a more dire situation than on a 68-degree day."

An infant, has to be in imminent harm, in order for a good samaritan to be protected from civil or criminal persecution.
  • An infant, has to be in imminent harm, in order for a good samaritan to be protected from civil or criminal persecution.

Similar to how a greenhouse insulates regardless of ambient temperature, researchers in the 2005 Stanford study found that a car's interior heats up an average of 40 degrees within the first hour.

The research study concluded that parents should take children and pets with them at all times. Similarly, Pine pointed to a recent case where a man left his 4-month-old child unattended for approximately 13 minutes while in a Home Depot and was cited with child neglect. "Certainly, for children if you leave them and they are in harm's way, then you can be charged with child neglect and for pets it would be animal abuse." Pine gives this word of advice as we languish into the dog days of summer, "If you can't see your child or the animal and you can't be reached within a moments notice...you're probably too far away."

House Bill 2732

Provides that person who enters motor vehicle to remove child or domestic animal in imminent danger of suffering harm is not subject to criminal or civil liability if person meets certain requirements.


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