BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          CONCURRENCE IN SENATE AMENDMENTS
          AB  
          797 (Steinorth and Santiago)


          As Amended  August 1, 2016


          Majority vote


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          |ASSEMBLY:  |      |(April 30,     |SENATE: |37-0  |(August 15,      |
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          |COMMITTEE VOTE: | 8-0 |(August 23,     |RECOMMENDATION:   |concur     |
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          (Jud.)




          Original Committee Reference:   A. & A.R.


          SUMMARY:  Exempts a person from civil and criminal liability for  
          property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle if the property  








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          damage or trespass occurred while the person was rescuing an  
          animal under specified circumstances.


          The Senate amendments delete the Assembly version of this bill,  
          and instead:  


          1)Provide that a person is not prevented from taking reasonable  
            steps that are necessary to remove an animal from a motor  
            vehicle if the person holds a reasonable belief that the  
            animal's safety is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack  
            of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other  
            circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause  
            suffering, disability, or death to the animal.


          2)Provide that a person who removes an animal from a vehicle in  
            accordance with 1) above, is not criminally liable for actions  
            taken reasonably and in good faith if the person does all of  
            the following:


             a)   Determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise  
               no reasonable manner for the animal to be removed from the  
               vehicle.


             b)   Has a good faith belief that forcible entry into the  
               vehicle is necessary because the animal is in imminent  
               danger of suffering harm if it is not immediately removed  
               from the vehicle, and, based upon the circumstances known  
               to the person at the time, the belief is a reasonable one.


             c)   Has contacted a local law enforcement agency, the fire  
               department, animal control, or the "911" emergency service  
               prior to forcibly entering the vehicle.


             d)   Remains with the animal in a safe location, out of the  
               elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until a peace  








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               officer, humane officer, animal control officer, or another  
               emergency responder arrives.


             e)   Used no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the  
               animal from the vehicle than was necessary under the  
               circumstances.


             f)   Immediately turns the animal over to a representative  
               from law enforcement, animal control, or another emergency  
               responder who responds to the scene.


          3)Provide that there shall not be any civil liability on the  
            part of, and no cause of action shall accrue against, a person  
            for property damage or trespass to a motor vehicle, if the  
            damage was caused while the person was rescuing an animal in  
            accordance with the provisions specified in 2) above.  Clarify  
            that this immunity from civil liability for property damage to  
            a motor vehicle does not affect a person's civil liability or  
            immunity from civil liability for rendering aid to an animal.


          4)Clarify that firefighters are included among those public  
            officers that are authorized under existing law to follow  
            specified procedures to rescue an animal from a motor vehicle.


          EXISTING LAW:   


          1)Prohibits a person from leaving or confining an animal in any  
            unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the  
            health or well-being of an animal due to heat, cold, lack of  
            adequate ventilation, or lack of food or water, or other  
            circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause  
            suffering, disability, or death to the animal.  (Penal Code  
            Section (PEN) 597.7 (a).)


          2)Provides that a first conviction for violation of the above  








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            rule is punishable by a fine not exceeding $100 per animal,  
            unless the animal suffers great bodily injury, in which case  
            the violation is punishable by a fine not exceeding $500,  
            imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by  
            both a fine and imprisonment.  Further provides that any  
            subsequent violation of this section, regardless of injury to  
            the animal, is also punishable by a fine not exceeding $500,  
            imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding six months, or by  
            both a fine and imprisonment.  (PEN 597.7 (b).)


          3)Clarifies that these provisions do not prevent any peace  
            officer, humane officer, or animal control officer from  
            following specified procedures to rescue an animal from a  
            motor vehicle.  (PEN 597.7 (c).)


          FISCAL EFFECT:  None


          COMMENTS:  This bill, co-sponsored by the Humane Society of the  
          United States and the Los Angeles County District Attorney  
          (LACDA), seeks to establish specified immunity from civil and  
          criminal liability for any person who acts to rescue an animal  
          facing imminent danger while left unattended in a motor vehicle.


          According to the author:  "California's existing 'Good  
          Samaritan' statute does not protect a person from liability from  
          acting to rescue an animal facing imminent danger from being  
          trapped in a hot car.  As a result, well-intentioned people who  
          notice an animal illegally left in an unattended vehicle are  
          unable to act to save the pet from potential heat exhaustion or  
          death in the event that law enforcement or emergency responders  
          are unable to arrive in time to act."


          According to LACDA, existing law should be updated to remove the  
          fear of liability as a deterrent against rescuing animals in  
          unattended vehicles from dangerous conditions.  They state:   
          "One of the most common questions our Animal Cruelty Coordinator  
          gets from members of the public is whether they can legally make  








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          entry into a vehicle to save an animal.  When our office tells  
          them that the law only allows law enforcement and animal control  
          officers to forcibly remove an animal from a vehicle, most  
          express frustration and say they are often torn about what  
          action, if any, to take when they see an animal in a hot car.   
          As much as people would like to help an animal trapped in a  
          vehicle, they are often deterred from taking action due to fear  
          of being sued and/or arrested."


          In order to encourage the rescue of animals in such  
          circumstances, this bill would authorize a person to take  
          reasonable steps that are necessary to remove an animal from a  
          motor vehicle if the person holds a reasonable belief that the  
          animal's safety is in immediate danger from heat, cold, lack of  
          adequate ventilation, lack of food or water, or other  
          circumstances that could reasonably be expected to cause  
          suffering, disability, or death to the animal.


          In order to receive immunity from criminal and civil liability  
          under this bill, a person seeking to rescue an animal must  
          strictly follow specific steps identified by this bill prior to  
          entering the vehicle, including:  1) determining the vehicle is  
          locked or that there is otherwise no reasonable manner for the  
          animal to be removed from the vehicle; 2) having a good faith  
          belief that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because  
          the animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not  
          immediately removed from the vehicle, and based upon the  
          circumstances known to the person at the time, the belief is  
          reasonable; and 3) contacting local law enforcement prior to  
          forcibly entering the vehicle.  In addition, the person is  
          required:  4) to use no more force than necessary to enter the  
          vehicle and remove the animal from the vehicle; 5) to remain  
          with the animal at a safe location after gaining entry into the  
          vehicle, reasonably close to the vehicle, until an emergency  
          responder arrives; and 6) immediately turn the animal over to  
          law enforcement or other emergency responder who responds to the  
          scene.  

          If all of these steps are followed, this bill provides the  
          rescuing person immunity from civil liability for property  








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          damage or trespass to the vehicle.  Importantly, however, this  
          bill is crafted to ensure that this qualified immunity does not  
          affect a person's civil liability for rendering aid to the  
          animal itself.  Thus, a person still has a duty to act  
          reasonably in rendering aid to the animal itself, or potentially  
          be held  liable for any injury or harm arising from rendering  
          such aid (as this bill only provides immunity for damage to the  
          vehicle.)

          This bill also provides immunity from criminal liability for  
          actions taken reasonably and in good faith if the person follows  
          the above specified steps in removing an animal from an  
          unattended vehicle.  According to the LACDA, a rescuer acting  
          reasonably and in good faith would lack the specific intent  
          which is an element of most crimes that could be charged against  
          a person for breaking into a vehicle.  However, there may be  
          some general intent crimes that could conceivably be charged.   
          While it is unlikely that a person acting in good faith to  
          rescue an animal would be charged with a crime or sued in any  
          case, this bill will remove the possibility by immunizing the  
          rescuer as long as he or she follows the steps set forth in this  
          bill.

          This bill also makes clarifying amendments to existing law  
          outlining the responsibilities of law enforcement and other  
          public officers in removing animals from a motor vehicle.   
          First, this bill clarifies that firefighters and other emergency  
          responders are included among those public officers that are  
          authorized under existing law to follow specified procedures to  
          rescue an animal from a motor vehicle.  Second, this bill  
          clarifies that certain responsibilities apply not only when the  
          official directly removes an animal from a vehicle, but also  
          when the official indirectly takes possession of or receives an  
          animal that has been removed from a vehicle by another person.   
          Finally, this bill clarifies that the owner of an animal removed  
          from a vehicle may be required to pay for charges that have  
          accrued for the maintenance, care, medical treatment, or  
          impoundment of the animal after an emergency responder has taken  
          the animal to a shelter or veterinary hospital pursuant to this  
          bill.

          Analysis Prepared by:                   Anthony Lew / JUD. /  








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          (916) 319-2334   FN: 0004831