State Rep. David Hawk tells the Johnson City Press that Tennessee is the first state in the nation to legalize breaking a car window to help an animal in distress. Hawk was House sponsor of HB537, approved by the Legislature earlier this year and taking effect July 1.
Hawk, R-Greeneville, calls it a Good Samaritan law. The story quotes the bill description on the legislative website: “As enacted, adds animals to the existing procedure that confers immunity from liability on a person for damage caused by breaking into a locked vehicle for the purpose of extracting a child in danger.”
Hawk celebrates the momentum of HB0537 as a victory for domestic animals, who are a part of many families in the state on the level of a child.
“It’s good for folks to know that they have this ability to take action should a possible tragic event happen,” Hawk said.
It will prevent a person from being sued if they were to break into a car to rescue a hot dog or cat.
And that situation is exactly what spurred the expansion.
Hawk said he heard about a tragic situation where people found a car with an overheated pair of dogs inside. Before law enforcement or local chapter of the Humane Society could get there, one of the dogs had died and the other was in extremely poor shape.
Though the other dog eventually recovered, one dog died an agonizing and preventable death, which, to Hawk, was unacceptable. He said the vehicle’s owners were being brought up on animal cruelty charges.
“What can be done so this circumstance doesn’t happen again?” Hawk remembers asking.
This prompted him to get the protection animals added to the Good Samaritan law, a precedent in the United States. Hawk said other states are looking at what Tennessee is doing with the Good Samaritan law and putting it into practice.
Note: The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald. It passed the Senate unanimousl and cleared the House with just two no votes.