Senate panel addresses dogs and cats left in cars

FRANKFORT, Feb. 24 -- Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, comments on SB 120, a bill relating to crimes and punishments, in the Senate.

FRANKFORT – Veterinarian Consuela Reinhart closed her small-animal practice in Louisville today to drive here to testify on Senate Bill 8, legislation that would protect dogs and cats left locked in cars during extreme weather conditions.

“I have witnessed, first hand, how these animals suffer being a veterinarian on the frontlines,” Reinhart said while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee for even stronger protections than what would be extended to dogs in cats by SB 8. “This allows Kentucky to raise our standard … for the protection of animals. This is so important.”

Sponsor Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said SB 8 would provide civil immunity for damaging a vehicle if a person enters the vehicle with the reasonable, good-faith belief that a dog or cat is in immediate danger of death if not removed.

He said SB 8 is an extension of Senate Bill 16 from the 2016 session, dubbed the look-before-you-lock bill. SB 16 became law and now protects prospective rescuers from being sued for any property damage caused in pursuit of saving the life of a child left in a locked vehicle.

In response to Reinhart’s request for even stronger safeguards for dogs and cats, Carroll said he would love the add protections but that as a veteran lawmaker he has learned that “you got to be careful asking for too much or you will get nothing.”

Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, thanked Carroll for narrowly defining some of the language in the bill to remove the opportunity for “mischief” by thieves or “animal extremists.” She said legislators must be careful not to give individuals a “pass” to break into cars to steal people’s pets.

“What we have to do here, and I think this bill does, is have a rational standard of protection of the animal in a potential neglect situation,” Webb said.

She also added that Kentucky’s southern neighbor, Tennessee, was the first state to pass such legislation.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, asked if municipalities in Kentucky were looking at adopting ordinances that would provide similar protections to people rescuing dogs and cats locked in cars.

Carroll said Louisville Metro Council passed a resolution encouraging the General Assembly to extend the look-before-you-lock provisions to animals.

Senate Minority Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, said he has had people call him who think SB 8 discriminates against other domesticated animals, such as hamsters and ferrets.

“This has been sort of like a law school exam question,” he said of the discussions on how to craft language in the bill as to not impede on people’s property rights or extend animals personhood status.

SB 8 unanimously passed out of the committee. It now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

“I know this isn’t an earth-shattering piece of legislation but our dogs and cats are very important to us,” Carroll said. “I’m convinced these animals … are God’s gift to man. It is just a small way we can protect our dogs and cats.”