Proposed Bill 478 and 401: Protecting Children and Animals Locked in Vehicles

Currently pending before the Texas Legislature are two proposed Bills that would work together to protect children and animals left in vehicles.

Proposed bill number 478 would eliminate the civil liability for breaking into a car to help a child or pet locked in the car. Under the current Texas law, a person may be sued for breaking into a car, even if they were attempting to help a child or pet locked in the car. Under the Proposed Bill, if a person enters a car to remove a child or domestic animal from the vehicle, the individual cannot be sued for breaking into the car. The bill requires that the individual first determine that the vehicle is locked, that entry into the vehicle is necessary to avoid immediate harm, and that there is no other way to help the child or pet. Under the proposed bill, the individual must also notify law enforcement or call 911 before entering the vehicle.

Proposed bill number 401 would make it a crime to leave an animal in a car for more than five minutes if the car is too hot or lacks ventilation. Currently, it is a misdemeanor if an individual leaves a child (under seven (7) years of age) in a non-ventilated or hot motor vehicle for longer than five minutes. The proposed bill would also make it a misdemeanor for an individual to leave an animal in a vehicle for more than five (5) minutes if the animal would be exposed to harm caused by heat or lack of ventilation.

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