A proposed bill would make it illegal for people to abandon their dogs during natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
Far too often, reports of pet owners abandoning their animals during a storm abound and pictures of terrified, helpless dogs fill our newsfeeds – pondering the question: what consequences do these people face?
As of yet, nothing. However, should this proposed Florida animal welfare measure become legislation, pet owners would be punished for abandoning their pets 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 manmade system’ is either happening or will happen, the Miami Herald reports.
Filed by Florida lawmaker Joe Gruters, the bill would authorise 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.
Rescued six dogs in Leland, NC, after the owner LEFT THEM locked in an outdoor cage that filled with flood water that was rapidly rising.— Marcus DiPaola (@marcusdipaola) 16 September 2018
We got them out, but by the time we left, the water was so high that they would have drowned. BRING YOUR PETS WITH YOU! #HurricaneFlorence pic.twitter.com/tRibGxCjXy
The bill also states that those who abandon animals by tying them up ‘commit animal cruelty’, and as such would be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 and a first-degree animal cruelty charge – punishable by up to a year in prison.
The proposal passed through the Senate Agriculture Committee with five favourable votes and no opposition.
At the committee hearing, The Palm Beach Post reported Gruters said, as per the Miami Herald:
We want to give these dogs a fighting chance.
Hurricane Florence, in North Carolina, saw many pets abandoned – often having been tied up – by their owners who had fled the area but chose not to take their animals with them.
One such example was a group of six dogs who had been left in a locked cage while their owners escaped to safety.
The dogs, who nearly drowned in rising flood waters before rescuers managed to get to them, were found barking and standing on their hind legs up against the front of the cage – clearly desperate to get out.
Were such an incident to take place in Florida, under the new bill those responsible for abandoning animals would be held accountable as the dogs were clearly trapped and unable to escape.
If the bill is signed into law, it would go into effect on July 1.