DENVER (CBS) – A total of 39 children died of heatstroke after being left in hot cars in the United States in 2016. Pets, mostly dogs, also died after being left in cars.
Now some Colorado lawmakers want to offer protection to Good Samaritans who want to rescue kids and animals.
Right now, people who smash vehicle windows to get kids or dogs out face prosecution.
State Rep. Lori Saine, a Republican from the district that includes Firestone, wants to change that.
“This bill is all about saving lives,” she said. “There are situations when police are 30 minutes away from locked vehicles and temperatures soar very quickly. That becomes life-threatening in a very short period of time.”
Police chiefs, sheriffs and animal control officers in the state worry the bill could have unintended consequences.
In Douglas, El Paso and Pueblo counties alone, animal control responded to 720 calls of a dog or cat locked in a car last year. Only five of those animals were in distress.
Law enforcement officials worry the bill will encourage some people to take matters into their own hands and that it could lead to violence.
Saine says her bill will only grant immunity under certain conditions. A rescuer must first make an effort to find the vehicle owner and call police.
There must also be evidence the child or animal is imminent danger.
“If someone doesn’t follow these steps, they are not immune from criminal or civil liability,” Saine explained.
A handful of states have passed similar bills but it’s expected to be an uphill battle in Colorado.