Beginning August 9, 2017, it will be legal to use force in order to rescue animals or people from dangerous cars. However, there are a few things to know in order to be immune from criminal or civil liability.
Who is Protected?
CRS 13-21-108.4 protects “at-risk persons” which are at risk adults, at risk adults with an intellectual or developmental disability, at risk elders (people over the age of 70), or at risk juveniles (people with a disability under the age of 18). Dogs and cats are also protected; livestock is explicitly not protected under the new law.
Prior to Breaking a Window
First, you must have a reasonable belief that the at-risk person or animal is in “imminent danger of death or suffering serious bodily harm.” Second, you must make a reasonable effort to find the owner or person driving the car. Third, you have to ensure the car is locked and that the only way to enter is by force. Fourth, you have to contact law enforcement (fire department, animal control, or 9-1-1) prior to breaking a window. Make sure to document and report to law enforcement the color, make, model, license plate, and location of the car.
Breaking a Window
If you need to use force to rescue, do not use any more force than is necessary. For example, if breaking one window will suffice, don’t break all the windows.
After Breaking a Window
You must remain with the person or animal near the vehicle until law enforcement arrives and not interfere with their official duties.
If you have to leave before law enforcement arrives, you must (1) place a note on the windshield of the car and include your name and contact information and (2) inform law enforcement that you must leave, include your name and contact information. It is important to note that this applies even if you are leaving to take the person or animal to seek medical help. If that is the case, you must also leave the name and contact information of the place you are taking the injured on the note left on the driver’s windshield and also provide the information to law enforcement.
Things to Remember about Rending Emergency Services
- This law does not apply to law enforcement vehicles.
- According the ASPCA, animals shouldn’t be left in cars when the outside temperature is above 70 degrees, even with windows down. However, the Colorado law does not have a minimum or maximum temperature to render emergency services.
- To determine if it is appropriate to use force to render emergency services, you must have a reasonable belief it is necessary. A reasonable belief is one that an average person of sound mind would also have.
Although the new law may provide some protection if an animal is in danger, we do not recommend breaking windows. Utilizing the new law should be an absolute last resort and may not protect a person from being charged with a crime.