By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The slowly unfolding story of gaming money being solicited by GOP Leadership in 2010 has reached a new level with the revelation that GOP senate candidates appear to have received over $200,000 in laundered gambling money.
Just a few weeks ago it came to light that Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston) requested and received at least two campaign contributions from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians (PCI) in Atmore, Alabama. In June, Marsh, who served as the Chairman of the Alabama GOP Finance Committee, solicited $100K from the tribe (although it wasn’t reported by the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) until July 15, 2010) and on October 8, 2010 Marsh requested and received $250K from the PCI. These facts have been confirmed by Robert McGhee, who serves on the Tribal Council and Governmental Relations for the PCI. The Tribe was told that the funds they contributed would be used to finance state senate races.
These funds were then funneled through the RSLC then to the ALGOP before being handed out to candidates.
The GOP leadership used the PAC-to-PAC transfers to disguise the real contributors from the public and its party members.
By hiding the money’s source, the GOP could rail against Democrats for taking gaming money while doing the same thing behind the voter’s back.
Marsh, the PCI confirms, asked for the $350K to support state senate candidates in the 2010 takeover by the GOP.
By following the timeline of money flowing from the PCI to the RSLC then to a ALGOP-controlled PAC, the money can be traced to 11 senate races. The largest contribution of gaming money appears to have landed in the campaigns of Senator Phil Williams, Senator Shadrack McGill, Senator Bryan Taylor, Senator Gerald Allen, Danny Joyner and Ray Robbins.
Williams, McGill, Allen and Taylor all won their campaigns Robbins lost to Democrat Senator Jerry Fielding and Joyner was defeated by Democrat Senator Marc Keahey.
Follow the Money:
According to records filed with the Alabama Secretary of State:
Senator Gerald Allen $38,500
Senator Phil Williams $35,000
Ray Robbins $43,000
Danny Joyner $20,000
Senator Bryan Taylor $23,200
Senator Shadrack McGill $18,900
Other Senators $23,500 (Anyone that received less than $10,000 is not named in this article.)
On October 10, 2010 the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) reported receipt of $250,000 from the Poarch Creek Indians See Open Secrets
On October 14, 2010 the RSLC reported an expenditure of $200,000 to the Alabama Republican Party. See RSLC Contributions
On October 15, 2010 the Alabama Republican Party reported receipt of $200,000 from the RSLC. See ARP Contributions.
Expenditures reported by the Alabama Republican Party are as follows:
Friends of Gerald Allen 10/20/10 $2,500 See ARP 10-day Report, Page 7
Friends of Gerald Allen 10/20/10 $500 See ARP 10-day Report, Page 7
Friends of Williams for Alabama 10/14/10 $35,000 See ARP 10-day Report, Page 7
Shadrack Mcgill for Senate District 10/20/10 $9,900 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Shadrack Mcgill for Senate District 10/20/10 $5,000 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Shadrack Mcgill for Senate District 10/20/10 $2,500 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Shadrack Mcgill for Senate District 10/20/10 $500 See 10-day Report, Page 30
Ray Robbins for Alabama Senate 10/13/10 $2,000 See 10-day Report, Page 36
Ray Robbins for Alabama Senate 10/14/10 $30,000 See 10-day Report, Page 36
Ray Robbins for Alabama Senate 10/20/10 $5,000 See 10-day Report, Page 36
Ray Robbins for Alabama Senate 10/20/10 See 10-day Report, Page 37
Bryan Taylor For Senate 10/13/10 $2,000 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Bryan Taylor For Senate 10/20/10 $5,000 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Bryan Taylor For Senate 10/20/10 $2,500 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Bryan Taylor For Senate 10/20/10 $2,500 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Bryan Taylor For Senate 10/22/10 $8,700 See 10-day Report, Page 39
Danny Joyner Campaign 10/28/10 $20,000 End of Year Report, Page 3
Friends of Gerald Allen 10/26/10 $30,000 End of Year Report, Page 4
Friends of Gerald Allen 10/27/10 $1,000 End of Year Report, Page 4
Friends of Gerald Allen 10/28/10 $2,000 End of Year Report, Page 4
Friends of Gerald Allen 10/29/10 $2,500 End of Year Report, Page 4
Ray Robbins for Alabama SD11 10/27/10 $1,000 End of Year Report, Page 11
Ray Robbins for Alabama SD11 10/29/10 $2,500 End of Year Report, Page 11
Shadrack McGill for Senate Dist 8 10/29/10 End of Year Report, Page 13
Bryan Taylor For Senate 10/26/10 $2,500 End of Year Report, Page 14
Taylor, Williams, Allen and McGill were contacted concerning this report.
They were asked the following questions:
Did you knowingly received money that came from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians?
Would you knowingly take money from any gambling interested?
Have you at any point been informed that you have received campaign contributions from gambling interests?
Would you care to speculate on why the then GOP leadership would give you money that was solicited from the Poarch Creek Band of Indians?
Allen, Williams and Taylor responded by saying no to all the questions, McGill did not reply.
While this is a preponderance of the evidence it seems clear that the PCI gaming money was used to finance Senate campaigns as Marsh had informed the Tribe.
The lynchpin behind all distributed funds was then-Chairman of the Alabama GOP Mike Hubbard. Hubbard and Marsh respectively went on to be elected Speaker of the Alabama House and President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate. Their rise to power was mainly based on their collective ability to raise money for GOP candidates.
The use of PAC-to-PAC transfers by then-Alabama GOP Party Chairman Mike Hubbard, may lead some to believe that there is room for plausible deniability. However, in responding to the recent revelations about $350,000 going from the Poarch Creek casino operators to the RSLC and $1,273,000 going from the RSLC to various Republican PACs in Alabama Hubbard said, “We were assured that none of our contributions came from gambling sources.”
How does that statement remain believable when Hubbard’s closest ally, then finance chairman Marsh, took money from the PCI, that was then transferred from the RSLC to PACs controlled by Hubbard? Is it credible to believe that the author of “Storming the Statehouse” did not know that gambling money was coming into the campaigns of GOP senators?
Marsh, according to those who spoke on conditions of anonymity—because of fear of retribution—have said that Marsh went to see the Tribe in Atmore on the behalf of someone else. Who else would Marsh take marching orders from except then ALGOP Chairman Mike Hubbard?
In 2010, GOP offered the voters a “Handshake with Alabama” the introduction to the document reads, “In Alabama, a handshake means something,” said then-State Republican Party Chairman and then-House Minority Leader Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn). “When you look someone in the eye, give them your word and shake their hand, you make a bond. This Handshake Agenda is our bond with the voters of Alabama, and if Republicans are successful in taking over the Legislature, these are the items we will immediately work to pass.”
One of the items that the GOP promised was, “Ending Corruption in Montgomery.” “Democrats have held the majority in Montgomery for 136 years, and during that time, they created an atmosphere that breeds corruption and encourages graft. …Republicans understand that we must limit the influence of special interests and other lobbyists who control much of what happens in Montgomery.”
The GOP said repeatedly that they would clean up the influence of gambling money in state politics while using it to win elections. While nothing that has proven illegal so far it certainly cast a long shadow over the promises made.
Phil Williams was given $35,000 from the ALGOP. He ran a successful race to defeat incumbent Democrat Senator Larry Means for his seat representing Senate District 10. In October 2010, Means was arrested on corruption charges in a vote-buying scheme commonly referred to as the Alabama Bingo Trial. He was accused of voting for pro-gambling legislation in return for campaign contributions. He was cleared of all charges in two trials in 2011 and 2012.
Now, it is revealed that Williams was receiving money from the GOP leadership that was tied to gaming interest to unseat Means.
Republican Shadrack McGill was given $18,900 and won his race against long-serving State Senator Lowell Barron who had represented the 8th District since 1982. Barron was defeated by 500 votes in 2010 general election.
Ray Robbins was provided the most money at $43,000 for his unsuccessful campaign against Democrat Jerry Fielding for Senate District 11. Fielding became the democrat candidate after long-serving State Senate Jim Pruett decided not to run because of he was accused in the Bingo Trial. Pruitt was later found not guilty on one count of bribery and 11 other honest-services counts.
Fielding has since discarded the mantle of democrat and has been welcomed into the Republican Party by House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Governor Robert Bentley.
Danny Joyner received $20,000 in his unsuccessful bid against Democrat Marc Keahey for the 22nd Senate District which the home of the PCI gaming operations.
Bryan Taylor who appears to have received $23,200 in gaming money in his race to defeat Democrat Senator Wendell Mitchell. Taylor has been a fierce nemesis of the Poarch Creek Indian’s gaming establishments. Taylor has tried to prove that the tribe is operating outside of the law with their casinos in Alabama.
Taylor recently represented the Escambia County Commission in trying to extract tax revenue from the PCI. The Commission no longer employs the Senator to represent the county with regards to the PCI.
Senator Wendell Mitch passed away in February of this year. He was remembered by his senate colleagues as a Statesman.
Gerald Allen who received $38,500 went on to defeat Democrat Senator Phil Poole. Poole had served in the Legislature for 28 years—16 of them in the Senate. Poole testified before the grand jury in the Bingo Trial.
Questions remain as to why Hubbard and Marsh would give large sums of gaming funds to freshmen GOP who had strong personal beliefs against gambling.
Could there be a nefarious motive to later reveal to these naive senators that they have the taint of gambling money within their campaigns? Could this have been used to keep them in line should they cross party hierarchy?
Speaker Mike Hubbard dedicated a great amount of his book “Storming the State” to his fundraising efforts. However, there is no mention of campaign contributions from the PCI or any other gaming interest. This oversight in Hubbard’s biography again suggest the type of cover up that has plagued the Alabama GOP for years.
While there is no apparent illegal activity the deceptive practice of hiding gaming money from voters does seem to discredit the premiss that brought the GOP to power in Alabama.
Is this a case of winning the Statehouse with gambling money rather that “Storming” it as Hubbard’s book contends? There are more question to be answered about the finances that allow for the 2010 GOP takeover of the Alabama Legislature. The facts are only now becoming clear but more evidence is mounting.
Alabama lawmakers advance bill banning transgender athletes in K-12 sports
A House committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill that would ban transgender teenagers from playing on the sports teams of the gender they identify with.
House Bill 35, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, or GIRL Act, would require student athletes in K-12 schools to participate as the gender listed on their birth certificate, preventing transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify as.
Sponsored by Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, the bill passed the House State Government Committee on an 8-4 vote. The bill will now go to the full House.
The bill, according to Pringle, is aimed at preserving the accomplishments of women and to prevent women from having to compete against athletes who were born male.
“Gender is real. There are biological differences between boys and girls that influence athletic performance,” Pringle said in a statement. “The GIRL Bill seeks to support female student-athletes, so that they may compete against each other and not have to compete against male students with an unfair advantage.”
Opponents say that HB35 was born out of prejudice against transgender youth rather than seeking to protect women in athletics.
Carmarion D. Anderson, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ+ rights organization, called the bill a “political advertisement” with no supporting evidence
Anderson said she believes this bill will do harm to young transgender youth by segregating them from competing in sports events, further contributing to the ostracization trans youth feel in society.
“We’re concerned about a student’s mental health when they cannot participate in the sports that are comfortable for them, and the level of dysphoria they already face when they are transitioning,” said Anderson.
Anderson also said that while it is unfortunate that this bill passed the committee, HRC will be at the forefront to try to see the bill defeated.
The bill now heads to the full House.
Legislation may harm pets locked in hot cars, not help, vets and advocates say
A bill passed by the Alabama Senate last week lawmakers say will help keep pets trapped in hot cars safe, might actually endanger the animals, according to some animal advocates and veterinarians.
That bill was written by a dog breeder who some worry purposefully wrote the bill to make it harder to keep animals safe, and to instead protect breeders from having animals confiscated, they told APR this week.
Mindy Gilbert, The Human Society’s Alabama state director, told APR by phone on Tuesday that she’s certain that the senate bill’s sponsor, Alabama Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, “does have good intentions, but I think the devils in the details.”
Several attempts this week to reach Rep. Holley were unsuccessful.
The bill would grant criminal immunity to a civilian who rescues an animal from a vehicle, and would provide civil and criminal immunity to first responders who do so. The legislation also makes it a misdemeanor crime if a pet dies in a hot car.
Gilbert said that while those might also sound like great ideas, the bill would actually reduce criminal penalties for allowing a pet to die in a hot car.
“Our current cruelty statute, which has been used in cases like this, would define that as a class C felony,” Gilbert said.
A Trussville woman in 2018 was charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals for leaving her dog in a locked car while shopping in Walmart. The dog died after police broke out a window and removed the distressed animal.
The bill also states that the ambient temperature of the interior of a vehicle must be 99 degrees or hotter to be charged under the legislation.
Gilbert said she’s spoken with numerous veterinarians who all said that 99 degrees is too hot to be safe for pets trapped in cars.
Gilbert said that for many breeds of pets, and pets with compromised health, “that requirement in order to rescue them will absolutely sentence them to death,” and there are other aspects of the bill that trouble her.
“I think everybody was very focused on providing immunity to first responders, which I think is fabulous,” Gilbert said of the legislation, but worried that it doesn’t include animal control personnel in its definition of public safety officials and covered by the bill’s immunity clause.
Holley’s legislation defines public safety officials as “An individual employed by a law enforcement agency, fire department, or 911 emergency service.”
Dr. Mark Colicchio, a veterinarian in Spanish Fort, reached out to Sen. Holley and all of the members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee about his concerns with the bill prior to its passage in the senate. Holley put Colicchio in touch with the man he said wrote the bill, Norman Horton.
Colicchio said he spoke to Horton, owner of the Dale County german shepherd breeding company Triple S Shepherds, at length about his concerns, but that none were addressed in the final legislation.
“There are a lot of temperature references in there which make no sense whatsoever,” Colicchio said.
Colicchio said he spoke with Horton about the bill’s language that required the ambient temperature of the interior of a vehicle to be 99 degrees or higher before a person could be charged. He said he told Horton that there’s no practical way for a public safety official to measure the ambient temperature inside a locked vehicle from outside, to which he said Horton suggested they call carry digital temperature readers.
Such devices measure surface temperatures, and wouldn’t be able to read the temperature inside a locked car, Colicchio said.
After speaking with veterinarians at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Cholicchio said they looked at data that suggested that if the outside temperature of a vehicle, which can be more easily measured, was 78 degrees an animal trapped inside with no ventilation could be in jeopardy.
Colicchio said he suspects the legislation was purposely written to protect owners from having their animals taken from them in the event they’re left in hot cars.
“He doesn’t want breeders to risk having their valuable dogs stolen out of the car because somebody thinks they’re at risk,” Colicchio said. “…When you structure a law to benefit yourself, and animals suffer for it, that just gets to me.”
Horton, speaking by phone Wednesday, told APR that he wrote the bill to protect animals and to establish the proper way to rescue an animal in distress.
“This is America, and this is Alabama, and if someone’s gonna be guilty of a crime or charged for a crime then they need to have committed that crime” Horton said.
Horton said “we don’t need vigilante justice” so he wrote the bill to make clear how best to enter a vehicle if an animal is in need of help.
Asked how he decided that 99 degrees inside a vehicle was the temperature at which a pet was in danger, Horton said “I got the figure after talking to several veterinarians.”
Asked which veterinarians he spoke to get that figure, Horton said “that’s immaterial” and declined to name them.
Horton likened the matter to speed laws, and said while some speed limits are set at 70 MPH, some people, such as police officers, can drive safely at speeds up to 113mph.
Asked why the bill doesn’t include animal control officers in the immunity protections, Horton said that “it does.”
Horton pointed to the bill’s language that defines public safety officials as “An individual employed by a law enforcement agency” and said “go to Tuscaloosa. Go to any of the cities around, and animal control officers are employed by the police department. They’re sworn officers.”
Some animal control officers who work in municipal law enforcement agencies are sworn officers, Gilbert said, but many are not, and in the counties, where animal control is operated as stand-alone agencies, animal control officers are not sworn officers and wouldn’t be immune from prosecution under the legislation.
Asked why his bill didn’t include all animal control officers, whether they were sworn officers working in law enforcement agencies or not, Horton suggested that it was to ensure owners could be charged with crimes
“Do we want to charge for the crime when they do something like this or just let them go?” Horton said.
Horton declined to answer a question about the bill’s language that limits the charge of killing an animal in a hot vehicle to a misdemeanor and soon after ended the interview.
“It’s not to help the animals,” Colicchio said of the legislation. “That’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
It was unclear Wednesday if Holley’s bill had a sponsor in the state House. There were no similar bills filed Wednesday, according to the state Legislature’s website.
Senate Committee approves medical marijuana bill
Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would allow Alabama residents to obtain medical marijuana on an 8 to 1 vote. Senate Bill 167 was sponsored by State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence).
SB167 would create a tightly regulated network of state-licensed marijuana growers, dispensaries, transporters, and processors. Patients would have to get a recommendation for the drug from their physician. Only physicians who have received the approved training would be able to dispense the cannabis-derived treatments. There would be no smokable products allowed and consumer possession of marijuana in its raw natural form would remain illegal in the state.
Sen. Melson is a retired anesthesiologist who now works in medical research.
“I would not have carried this bill three or four years ago,” Melson said. But there is a growing body of medical evidence that there are medical benefits.
Melson said that while this bill does have provisions for growing and processing marijuana in states there is also, “An option for it to come from outside.”
Melson said that under this bill we will know what is being grown, being processed, and reaches the consumer. The medical association will recommend the training and the education component for the physician. Patients will be issued a medical cannabis card. “The card will not be good in other states.”
Melson said that Alabama dispensaries will not accept out of state medical cannabis cards except one time a year they can get a one-time emergency order. The number of dispensaries will be limited to 34 total. Patients will be allowed to get just a 70-day supply. There is no smoking and no vaping. People in rural areas will have to go far to get one of the dispensaries. There is a, “Balancing act between convenience and safety. There are fifteen qualifying conditions.”
Rick Hagans is a minister with Harvest Evangelism, which runs Christian rehabs for both men and women drug addicts.
“The gateway that led to methamphetamines and opioids began with marijuana,” Hagans said. “We have found in forty years of work that it is a gateway drug.”
Hagans dismissed the medical benefits claims, “Medical profession said the same thing with opioids. I ask that you proceed with caution and concern. I get tired of burying your sons and daughters,”
“Thank you for giving us Leni’s Law, but it is not enough,” Christie Kaine said. “I am the Mother of a child with intractable epilepsy. We know from our research that there are other cannaboids that can help with Hardy’s condition, but they can not be used in Alabama due to the level of THC. If Hardy did not live in Alabama he could be seizure-free.
Caleb Crosby with the Alabama Policy Institute said, “It is a real issue and something has to be done about it. Our concern is unintended consequences.”
Crosby said that Republicans, “Run on small government, but this does the opposite.”
“We still have a litany of laws carried over from Prohibition one hundred years ago,” Crosby said. “You will not be able to get rid of all of these regulations and taxes.”
Cynthia Atkinson’s husband was longtime WSFA meteorologist Dan Atkinson, who was also on the Weather Channel.
“Dan had Parkinson’s for ten years,” Atkinson said. “The last five years he suffered from tremendous pain.” He had excellent doctors at the Mayo Clinic and Kirklin Clinic. They did their best.” Dan was prescribed Oxycodone, hydrocodone, lorazepam, and as he got progressively worse morphine. We learned that Israel has been studying cannabis since the 1950s. In 2015 we went to Colorado.” He used patches with 10 mg of CBD and 10 mg of THC. The leg cramps went away. We wanted to bring it back but couldn’t because of the law.
“The opioids and synthetic drugs were racking his body,” Mrs. Atkinson said. Dan passed away in 2017. I can’t help but think that if we lived in another state he could have lived to see his son graduate from Auburn and join the Space Force.
Captain Clay Hammac commands the Shelby County Drug Task Force
“Just because we do not put medical in front of marijuana does not make it medicine,” Capt. Hammac said. Under Alabama law, we already have Leni’s law and Carly’s law and there are cannabis-based medications that have been approved by the FDA.
Hammac warned that this was an “Incremental step toward the decriminalization of a multi-$billion industry. This bill should be before the Health Committee instead of the Judiciary Committee.”
“Law enforcement was never invited to the table to share our experience,” Hammac said of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission.
“A Harvard medical researcher was brought to the commission and virtually laughed out of the room,” Hammac said. “I stand with our Attorney General.”
Hammac blast the “casual way” that this has been handled.
“The reason this is before the Judiciary Committee instead of the Health Committee is that this is the most deliberative thorough committee in state government today,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said. “That nature of the people on this Committee is why this is here.”
“The State has no authority to usurp federal law,” Hammac said.
“I want to make sure that everybody understands where I come from,” Dustin Chandler said. “My daughter Carly obtained CBD oil through Carly’s Law. My daughter was able to get relief through the CBD oil. Studies show that medical cannabis has medical benefits for many people.”
Lori Herring said, “I have been a nurse for 30 years.”
Herring said that the American Academy on Pediatrics opposes the legalization of cannabis. The American Medical Association does not endorse medical cannabis. The Multiple Sclerosis Society can not recommend cannabis as a treatment.
“The side effects, system effects, and long term side effects are not clear,” Herring said. “It has not been shown to be medically effective and could be dangerous. “It has only been approved for two severe forms of epilepsy. We don’t know what a pediatric dose, an adult dose, or a geriatric dose would be.”
Herring warned that marijuana can cause nausea and vomiting unrelieved by current nausea medication and has resulted in death. Legalization has led to increased emergency room visits, paranoia, schizophrenia, and psychotic breaks.
“The marijuana today is more addictive than marijuana in the past,” Herring said. “Legislators should not be taking the place of scientists.”
Dr. Alan Shackelford of Colorado said, “I have seen 25,000 patients in my practice in the last ten years. I doubt you will find anybody who has as much experience with patients than I do.”
Shackelford said that Marylin was a helicopters pilot in Iraq who was shot down and had severe injuries and PTSD did not have a job rarely left her house and now has a job at the VA helping other veterans and is married
Shackleford said that Mason is age 68 and has Parkinson’s. He could not move now he plays baseball and is a deacon in his church. He also said that he treated Charlotte, a girl with Dravet Syndrome with tremendous effect and now she is a healthy twelve-year-old.
“Not all of them are as dramatic as these,” Dr. Shackelford said. Arthritis, autism, PTSD, cancer, pain, Parkinson’s, chemotherapy-related nausea can all be treated with cannabis.
“The people of Alabama deserve the same access to treatment as people in 33 other states,” Dr. Shackelford concluded.
“A number of amendments have been worked out in the last couple of weeks,” Ward said.
The amendments were added and Ward advised Melson to incorporate all the amendments into a substitute to introduce when the bill is on the Senate floor.
The most notable amendment dealt with workmen’s compensation. An employee who is injured or killed on the job is ineligible to receive compensation if his death or injury was due to the employee’s impairment under medical cannabis.
SB167 received a favorable report on an eight to one vote.
Opinion | Alabama close to allowing hot dogs to be rescued
Most readers know that we’ve had a grumble of pugs for years. We lost four in the grumble last year. All of our dogs are rescues, and most of them have some disability: unable to walk well, blindness, incontinence, a perpetually crooked head.
And most of the pugs are elderly, so we expect to lose a few this year. Our youngest is Nellie Bly, at about 2 years old. We have a group of older pugs that are around 10-11 years old. Several came from puppy mills. One was surrendered to a vet tech when his owners took him to be put down because the owner’s granddaughter wanted a different dog (I know!). The veterinarian naturally was not going to euthanize a healthy animal, and about a week later, Peerey came to us.
Pugs are bred to do one thing: Sit with their humans, mostly on their laps or next to them on the bed. All of ours are bed pugs. They snore; we adore.
I say all of this to underscore that Veronica and I know not ever to leave one of our dogs in a locked car, especially during the summer. But every year, we hear stories of the careless owners who leave their dog (or dogs) in the backseat of a vehicle while they run an errand. The errand takes longer than the owner thought, and heat builds in the car. Too often, that kills the pet, just like it does children, and that happens all too often as well.
As of 2019, 31 states had laws that either prohibit leaving an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.
Alabama – finally – is on the cusp of joining that group.
A bill (SB67) sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, will allow good Samaritans to rescue pets left in a car if they are clearly in danger from either the heat or cold. The bill provides criminal immunity to civilians and grants civil and criminal immunity to law enforcement officers who rescue an animal.
Important, too, is that bill prevents owners from leaving their animals in a vehicle in a manner that creates an unreasonable risk of harm. If they do, they can be charged with second-degree animal abuse.
It doesn’t take long for the situation in a vehicle to deteriorate, either.
Even on a mild day, the heat inside a car can go off the rails. According to reports, if the outside temperature is 70 degrees (f), the interior of a vehicle can heat up to 89 degrees in 10 minutes. After a half-hour, the interior temp can be 104 degrees. Of course, it’s much worse on hotter days.
At 80 degrees, a vehicle’s inside temperature is at 99 degrees; after a half-hour, the animal is trying to survive in a 114-degree oven. And at 95 degrees, not an unusual June, July, or August temperature in Alabama, the inside temp of a vehicle is about 130 degrees.
Humans can’t even survive long at those temperatures.
There are conditions before a good Samaritan can step up, but they’re not unusual in states that already have similar laws: Among them:
There are other conditions that make less sense, however. The bill as passed 33-0 by the state Senate requires the ambient temperature in the vehicle be 99 degrees or higher before a citizen or first-responder can intervene.
I can tell you that a half-hour in a car at 95 degrees will kill a pug; a Lab or Golden might survive that temperature for awhile, but remember, every minute the car’s interior is getting hotter. Pugs are brachycephalic – short nosed – and have trouble breathing outside at 80 or 85 degrees.
Other short-nosed breeds like English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers, have the same issue. It’s one reason why they snort and snore, even in the winter.
Generally, we can tell when a dog locked in a car is distressed, and few good Samaritans are going to be carrying a temperature gauge with them.
Still, the House needs to pass this bill as soon as possible. Spring and summer aren’t that far off, and, no doubt, there will be animals to rescue.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter.
Email: [email protected]
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