An Upper Peninsula lawmaker has introduced legislation that could save animals that are locked in vehicles under dangerous circumstances.

Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, last week introduced House Bill 4092 which will protect animals locked inside hot and freezing cold cars by granting criminal immunity to individuals who break a window to help a distressed animal.

We agree with the legislation and hope it moves quickly through the House Judiciary Committee, on which LaFave serves as vice chairman.

“If someone sees a dog in a hot car struggling to breathe, they shouldn’t have to worry about going to jail if they need to break a window,” LaFave has stated. “This will save the lives of animals that might otherwise be left to suffer and die.”

The legislation states the person must first make sure the vehicle is locked and there is no other means for escape. The animal also must clearly be in immediate danger or suffering.

The person then must call the local police, fire department or 911 as soon as possible before or after entering the locked vehicle. The person must place a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with the person’s contact information, the reason entry was made, the location of the animal and a statement that the local authorities have been notified.

The bill further reads that the person must remain with the animal in a safe location, out of the elements, reasonably close to the vehicle, until a responding agency arrives. The person also cannot use any more force on the vehicle than is necessary to remove the animal under the circumstances.

Under the measure, people who leave their animals in cars would face a misdemeanor if they are caught. If an animal dies in a vehicle under adverse conditions, the person responsible could face up to five years in prison.

We believe this bill makes perfect sense.

According to the Hupy and Abraham website, it is legal to rescue a child from a locked car under those circumstances, but only eight states (including Wisconsin) have such laws regarding pets.

“In ALL other states, if you break another person’s car window, the vehicle’s owner could sue for damages,” the personal injury lawyers state.

They further explain that if the property damage exceeds a certain amount, you may face criminal charges for destruction of personal property.

The lawyers suggest first calling 911 or a law enforcement officer.

We applaud LaFave for introducing this legislation. He tried last fall, but the bill did not make through by the end of the year.

LaFave believes he has bi-partisan support.

“I’m as partisan as the next guy, but the love of animals on the other side of the aisle is just as fervent as it is on ours, and we’ve got good people that want to get good things done,” LaFave said on the Michigan State University website. “Republicans have a particular way they think is going to make the economy better, Democrats have a different philosophy of how to do that, but I don’t think that partisanship has anything to do with taking care of our furry friends.”

We encourage people to educate themselves on the laws of their states before smashing a car window. Even though a pet owner likely would sacrifice a broken window if their pet was rescued, it’s better to be safe.

Hopefully this bill will become law and a pet won’t have to suffer in a hot or frigid car.