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Law would protect those who break into hot cars to save pets

ATLANTA — A Georgia lawmaker is seeking protection for people who break into cars to rescue pets in hot weather.

Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick is proposing legislation that would protect people from a lawsuit if they damage a vehicle to rescue an animal in danger, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The idea came out of a Senate committee studying whether laws are needed to regulate support or service animals, said the Republican, who is from the Atlanta suburb of Marietta.

Kirkpatrick is adding language to an existing law protecting people who rescue children from hot cars, she said. It was passed after the 2015 death of 22-month-old Cooper Harris.

Cooper was killed by his father Justin Ross Harris in a hot car in Cobb County. Harris, who moved to Georgia from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was sentenced to life without parole.

Kirkpatrick was put on the committee because she has a 14-year-old golden doodle therapy dog named Dobie, she said.

While researching current laws, "I started noticing that there was nothing in there for someone trying to rescue an animal in distress," she said.

In her bill, anyone who breaks a window to rescue an animal in distress must also call 911 to be immune from civil liability, the Atlanta newspaper reported.

"That would mitigate the possibility of someone just kidnapping an animal" or breaking a window and later claiming it was to save an animal, she said.

State Sen. Michael "Doc" Rhett, D-Marietta, has proposed similar legislation. That bill would make law enforcement officers not liable for breaking a vehicle window to save a person or pet.