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Car rescue bill moves closer to law

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Ignoring a claim the measure is “horribly crafted,” the state House voted 35-20 Wednesday to give license to people to break into cars to rescue children and pets.

HB 2494 would provide immunity from being sued for the damages caused by someone who has a “good faith belief” the child or animal “is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death” unless removed from the vehicle.

Rep. Kristen Engel, D-Tucson, said this isn’t a license for people to start smashing windows.

To qualify for that immunity, a would-be rescuer must notify a police officer, medical services provider or, as appropriate an animal control officer. And after breaking out the window, the person has to remain on the site.

But Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, chided colleagues for approving what he sees as feel-good legislation that has the potential to do more harm than good.

Farnsworth said there are existing laws protecting those who act to preserve human life. That, he said, makes this legislation unnecessary.

Worse yet, he said, it puts the rescue of pets on the same level as rescue of children.

“This is raising animals to the level of rights of humans,” he said, saying the measure is “probably on the level of legislative malpractice.” That got the attention of some rural lawmakers like Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, who is a rancher, even though the legislation is specifically limited to dogs, cats and any other animal “that is domesticated and kept as a household pet.”

The bill, which already has been approved by the Senate, now goes to Gov. Doug Ducey who is expected to sign it.

“If there’s one headline we all dread reading every year, it’s the one about the latest child, left in a hot car, dying of heat stroke,” he said during his State of the State speech in January. “In just minutes, temperatures escalate, and a tragedy occurs.”

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