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March 19, 2019

Alabama Senate Bill 61 seeks to provide immunity from liability to a person who forcibly enters a vehicle to release an animal that the person believes is in danger.

No caring person wants a dog to remain locked in a vehicle under conditions that are a risk to the dog’s health. However, a bill that seeks to grant immunity to a person who breaks into a vehicle must consider all potential consequences of that action.

Concerned animal owners who reside or participate in dog events in Alabama are urged to immediately contact the bill sponsor and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to request that SB 61 be amended to protect the dog owner from liability if the released dog bites the person or a passerby, and to address additional safety and liability issues.

SB 61 is on the agenda of the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20, at 8:30 a.m.  Scroll down for contact information.

Talking Points for Senate Bill 61:

  • SB 61 does not address the dog owner’s liability if a protective or frightened dog bites the person who removes the dog from the car, or if the dog escapes control of the actor and injures a passerby. Alabama Act 2018 – 232 established strict liability for the owner of a dog that injures a person, and also includes provisions that could require euthanization of the dog that bites and criminal penalties for the dog owner.
    Because of this law, it is especially important that this bill be clarified to protect a dog owner from liability in these situations when a dog could potentially bite someone who is removing the animal from a vehicle.
  • SB 61 does not address liability if a dog is released by or escapes from the person after being removed from the vehicle. The bill should clarify liability if the dog is harmed, or if there is other property damage if the dog becomes at large.
  • A dog might be barking and excitedly panting because the actor approached the vehicle and tried to open the doors, and not because it is in distress. SB 61 only requires the person removing the to know that an animal is inside the vehicle, believe that the dog is in imminent danger, and to determine that the vehicle is locked. The bill should be clarified to require the person first determine if the vehicle has ventilation, fans, air conditioning, or other means to maintain a safe interior temperature.
  • SB 61 requires the person removing the dog to first contact law enforcement or animal control. However, it does not require the person to follow all instructions received from the law enforcement or animal control agent, which could include instructions to NOT forcibly enter the vehicle. This should be clarified in the bill.

What you can do:

Contact Senator Del Marsh to thank him for his concern for the well-being of animals and respectfully ask him to amend SB 61 to address the concerns of responsible animal owners. Also contact members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and respectfully ask that they amend the bill as introduced to address these concerns.

Senator Del Marsh, Sponsor SB 61

Senator Cam Ward, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair

Senator Will Barfoot, Senate Judiciary Committee Vice-Chair

Senator Rodger M. Smitherman, Ranking Majority Member

Senator Greg Albritton

Senator Linda Coleman-Madison

Senator Vivian Davis Figures

Senator Sam Givhan

Senator Arthur Orr

Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier

Senator Bobby D. Singleton

Senator Larry Stutts

Senator Tom Whatley

Ms. Carol Bullard, Senate Judiciary Committee Clerk