Republican Senator Joe Gruters sponsored a new animal welfare bill (Bill 1738) which prohibits residents from restraining their dogs outside or leave them unattended during a man-made or natural disaster including but not limited to hurricanes, tropical storms, tornados or after a warning has been issued by the National Weather Service or if there is an official evacuation order issued from the government. This bill is introduced as Hurricane Season rapidly approaches. A manmade is defined in the bill as “notice from a local or government authority that an event attributed in part or entirely to human intent, error, or negligence, or involving the failure of a manmade system.”
The Bill States that anyone who fails to evacuate with their dog and leaves them outside or restrained (whether by rope, leash, or cable) inside will be committing animal cruelty which a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. Penalties for violating this bill consist of a year of jail time, a $5,000 fine or both.
The goal of the Bill is to put more responsibility on pet owners to care for their pet so emergency resources do not need to be used on abandoned animals after many animal rescuers had to scramble to save abandoned pets before Hurricane Irma in 2017. According to the Beach County, Animal Care & Control – 49 dogs and two cats were rescued before Hurricane Irma. Some were not so lucky. In March of 2018, police officers from the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office found the bodies of three dead dogs inside a home that was abandoned during Hurricane Irma. The bill also authorizes veterinarians to report any suspected violations anonymously.
The Bill was introduced on March 20th and passed in the Agriculture Committee with a 5-0 vote. It has been referred to the Criminal Justice Committee. If the bill is passed, it will take effect on July 1st, 2019.
The bill does not include other pets such as fish, turtles, birds or cats.