Up to this point, abandoning your pets in such circumstances has not been punishable by law. However, should this proposed Florida animal welfare measure become legislation, pet owners would be punished for abandoning their pets, even during extreme weather.
As reported by ABC News, Senate Bill 1738 would prohibit people from leaving a dog tied up and unattended outdoors during both man-made and natural disasters. Natural disasters include hurricanes, tropical storms or tornado warnings.
The bill defines ‘man-made’ as a situation in which someone has received ‘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 man-made system’ is either happening or will happen, the Miami Herald reports.
Filed by Florida lawmaker Joe Gruters, chairman of the Florida Republican Party. The bill would authorize vets to report suspected violations without notifying the owner beforehand. However, it would only be able to be used in situations where a warning had been issued by the National Weather Service or an evacuation order had been issued by local officials.
The state of Florida is regularly hit by hurricanes that sweep into the country from the Atlantic Ocean, so the abandonment of pets has been a big issue in the state throughout recent history.
The bill also states that those who abandon animals by tying them up are committing animal cruelty, and as such would be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and a first-degree animal cruelty charge – which carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison.
Most animal lovers will agree that such a punishment is entirely deserved, considering the horrific ordeal that the abandoned pets have to go through, even if they end up surviving.
The proposal passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee with five favorable votes and no opposition.
At the committee hearing, Gruters said "We want to give these dogs a fighting chance." Right on, Mr. Gruters!
As far as I'm concerned, these new legislative measures are a hugely welcome step. Our pets provide us with so much love and joy, and all they ask for in return is food, shelter, and love. We should not take our responsibility towards them lightly.
If the bill is signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1st.