Cars

Chicagoans could be deputized to free dogs from hot cars

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Dogs could get relief from the dog days under a plan to empower Chicagoans to free animals from steamy cars.

Northwest Side Ald. Gilbert Villegas has introduced an ordinance that would give “any person, animal control officer, or law enforcement officer” authority to let themselves into an unattended vehicle “by any reasonable means” if they see an animal inside that they think is suffering from extreme heat or cold.

Villegas also wants to fine dog owners $300 to $1,000 for leaving their pets behind in such dangerous circumstances.

“I just got in my car now, and it’s hot as hell,” Villegas said Thursday while discussing the ordinance. “I can only imagine what it would be like with fur.”

Villegas said he was prompted to act after seeing people crowded around cars in his 36th Ward on a couple occasions, unsure what to do to free dogs suffering on hot days. “Reasonable means” would include allowing people to break a window on the car if there’s no other way to get inside, Villegas said.

The alderman intends to introduce a companion measure in September protecting people from being sued by vehicle owners if they break a window to rescue an animal. “People who free an animal could not get in trouble for damage to the vehicle” under the planned ordinance, Villegas said.

He said he’s following the lead of several states that have similar laws on the books. The initial proposal Villegas introduced this week has been assigned to the City Council Finance Committee.

jebyrne@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @_johnbyrne

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