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N.C. Opinions: Winston-Salem

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A rare bipartisan victory benefits our furry friends

From an editorial July 24 in the Winston-Salem Journal:

Earlier this summer, Orange County residents were shocked to hear of the death of Worthy, a golden retriever, in a Chapel Hill parking lot.

The sweet-tempered Worthy had been left in a car for several hours. The oppressive heat that built up in that car killed her.

Legislators heard that story and were, no doubt, touched by its sadness. Last week, they passed legislation that may lead to the rescue of other animals dangerously left in vehicles.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, amended an animal shelter bill to allow law enforcement officers and a number of other trained emergency workers to use any reasonable means to rescue an animal from the dangers of being sealed in a vehicle. In bipartisan votes, the full House and Senate went along.

The bill specifies the justifications for breaking into a private vehicle to rescue an animal: dangerous heat or cold, or a lack of adequate fresh air. Then, wisely, there’s a catch-all phrase: “under other endangering circumstances.”

The most likely method of entry will be to break a window, something that will cost the vehicle owner dearly to fix. So, the legislation requires that rescuers make a reasonable attempt to find the driver and to rescue the animal without damage.

But we’re happy to see that even if the driver cannot be found that the appropriate authorities now have permission to solve the problem first, to rescue the distressed animal, and later argue about the necessity of intervening.

The legislation makes sense because leaving an animal in a locked, inadequately ventilated, overheated or freezing car is a form of animal abuse that is illegal. Authorities in this case will simply be intervening to stop that crime.

The legislation’s primary intent, before the amendment, was to protect animals that are sent to shelters and to give their owners adequate time and access to retrieve them before they are euthanized.

Animal shelters are under great pressure, and we understand that they have a lousy job, but the extra protection provided in this legislation is very welcome.

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