It’s Now Legal To Bust A Dog Out Of A Hot Car… And Other New Colorado Laws

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Photo: Dog Sitting In His Italian Car - AP
A dog sits in the driver seat, waiting for their owner to return.

Summer heat can be deadly for dogs, even when it’s not that hot out.

On a 85 degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees in just a half hour. A dog left inside can quickly experience heat stroke. What’s more, cracking a window makes little to no difference, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

A new state law — that takes effect August 9 — empowers anyone in Colorado to take action. It offers legal immunity to those who break into a car to save a child or a pet in danger, so long as they follow steps laid out in the law.

The procedure is designed to make breaking in a last resort. A would-be rescuer must have a reasonable belief a person or pet is in danger. They must try to contact the vehicle owner and authorities trained to deal with the problem. If no help arrives and the vehicle is locked, only then can someone bust a window without fear of legal consequences.

Boulder Animal Control Supervisor Jenee Boswell worries people could misinterpret the law. Concern for an animal cannot justify a break in, the actor here must be able to recognize and report signs of distress.

“A bystander that sees an animal in a vehicle won’t necessarily recognize it’s just panting, versus the animal is in distress and needs to be removed.”

She says people should learn the signs of heatstroke in dogs. Those include heavy panting, excessive drooling, glazed eyes, unsteadiness, vomiting or a dark tongue.

Other New Colorado Laws That Kick In

Penalties For Felony DUI Offenders: The new law brings some consistency to sentencing for repeat drunk drivers. Two years ago, Colorado made it a felony to get four or more DUI convictions. But a Denver Post investigation found wide variations in sentencing, from probation, to prison time. Under the policy taking effect tomorrow, felony drunk drivers will have to spend at least 90 days in jail, with the penalty increasing up to a maximum of six years in prison.

Domestic Violence Reports By Medical Professionals: Victim advocates have argued that requiring medical professionals to notify police when they suspect a patient has been abused by their significant other has unintended consequences. The state law taking effect removes "mandatory reporting" for medical professionals when the victim is at least 18.

Direct Primary Health Care Services: The new law makes “direct primary care” more accessible in Colorado. It’s a model that’s getting more popular across the country. You — or your employer — pay a monthly fee to a doctor’s office and you get as many consultations as you need instead of going through an insurance company.

Seal Misdemeanor Marijuana Conviction Records: People convicted of misdemeanors for the use or possession of marijuana can now have their record sealed if the behavior wouldn't have led to criminal charges after pot was legalized in the state.

Public Access Digitally Stored Data Under Colorado Open Records Act: A change to Colorado’s Open Records Act will make it easier to analyze government records that are made available for public inspection. The law now says if governments have records in digital form they have to be released in useful formats, such as spreadsheets or searchable files. The law also requires government officials to remove confidential data from files, rather than denying the request outright because some of the information can’t legally be released.

Amateur Winemaker Tastings Contests & Judgings: Previously, liquor-law enforcers viewed wine brewed by amateur winemakers as something akin to moonshine. It was prohibited from being entered in wine competitions in locations with commercial liquor licenses. Now, these wines — in 6-ounce pours — can be included in any wine competition in Colorado, as long as they are not for sale. Cassidee Schull, executive director of the Colorado Association for Viticulture & Enology, said the legal tweak isn't just a wine for home winemakers: It means amateur wine competitions can be expanded, become more high-profile and allow the state to lure larger national competitions.

Mental Health Support For Peace Officers: The idea is to encourage sheriff and police departments to provide mental health support for its officers. The new law sets up funding — through donations and grants — to help law enforcement agencies cover the cost of these services.