Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Jamel Holley sponsored to protect individuals who break into a vehicle in order to save an animal that has been left unattended was approved 65-0-12 by the full Assembly on Monday.
"If an animal is in danger and someone passing by is in a position to save its life, that person shouldn't have to think twice because they're worried about a lawsuit," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Once they've exhausted all other options, people acting in good faith should be free to take whatever action is necessary to save an animal."
The bill (A-3636) would provide good Samaritans who rescue overheating animals from parked cars with immunity from civil and criminal liability. Under the legislation, a person who reasonably believes that an animal is in danger due to inhumane conditions must report the circumstances to rescue personnel and make a reasonable effort to locate the animal's owner prior to breaking into the vehicle.
"We've seen far too many tragic incidents where an animal was left in a locked car that quickly turned deadly," said Holley (D-Union). "It's heartbreaking to think that their life might have been saved if a well-intended person weren't deterred by the threat of a lawsuit. This will hopefully change all that."
After rescuing the animal, the person must immediately contact a law enforcement officer, certified animal control officer or humane law enforcement officer or agent of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or of a county society for the prevention of cruelty to animals, if one has not already been notified.
The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.