Florida bill would punish residents who abandon pets during hurricanes

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Posted at 10:15 AM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-19 11:26:23-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — People who leave pets restrained outside and unattended during natural or manmade disasters would face up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $5,000, under a measure approved Monday by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

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Sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said the proposal (Senate Bill 1738), which would create a first-degree misdemeanor, is in reaction to actions by pet owners in hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Michael. “We’ve seen these three hurricanes and seen numerous dogs left tethered to different things,” Gruters said. “We want to give dogs a fighting chance.”

Numerous local governments, including Fernandina Beach, Miami, Mount Dora and Pembroke Park and Collier, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Sarasota and St. Lucie counties --- already have rules about leaving dogs tied up during storms.

“The Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control director reported that many pets are left chained to trees and parked cars, as their owner left them behind to ‘ride out the storm’ on their own,” a Senate staff analysis of the bill said. “During Hurricane Irma, 49 dogs and two cats were rescued by animal control officers.”

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