Florida joins Tennessee in providing civil immunity for Good Samaritans who free dogs and other pets trapped inside cars.

A new Florida law means there’s good news for dogs and other domestic animals that are needlessly left inside cars by their owners.

On March 8, Gov. Rick Scott signed into state law House Bill 131, which “creates immunity from civil liability for property damage that may occur when an individual attempts to rescue a minor, elderly or disabled adult, or domestic animal from a motor vehicle.”

In layman’s terms: If a person sees an animal — most often times a dog — locked inside a car that needs to be rescued, he or she may take steps necessary to free the animal without being held liable for any damage caused to the vehicle.

The Florida law follows Tennessee as the first state to allow persons to break into a hot car to free a dog.

Animals left inside a car on a hot day — on even a mild day — are at risk of overheating. 

This is great news for animal lovers and activists, but comes with some guidelines. To be protected:

The Good Samaritan must ensure the vehicle is locked and there is no other reasonable way to free the animal or human inside;

The animal or human is unable to get free on his/her/its own;

The rescuer must have “a good faith and reasonable belief” the dog or human is “in imminent danger of suffering harm;”

The Samaritan must call 911 or contact a law enforcement agency before or immediately after entering the vehicle and must use reasonable force in obtaining entry; and

The Good Samaritan must remain with the animal or human in a nearby, safe location until authorities arrive.

Although the law states civil immunity will be granted if the guidelines are met, the rescuer still may be responsible for criminal damages and charged as such.

Less than half of all states have some form of law against persons who leave a dog locked inside a park car.

Written by Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig