The 2019 Florida Legislature adjourned on May 3. During session, lawmakers introduced bills to allow veterinarians to report animal cruelty when they witness evidence of cruelty in private practice; prohibit predatory, deceptive pet leasing schemes at puppy-selling pet stores; ensure pets can be included in domestic violence temporary restraining orders; require continuing education for shelter euthanasia technicians; prohibit shelters from euthanizing animals if a non-profit rescue group has agreed to take in the animal, with narrow exceptions; prohibit dog tethering abandonment during disasters; and more.
Here are a few highlights of issues that gained traction in 2019:
VICTORY! (sort of) HB 379/SB 774 Animal Welfare:
HB 379/SB 774 Animal Welfare contained several of the reforms listed above. HB 379 received a hearing in the House Business and Professions Subcommittee; however, only one of the bill’s five provisions passed into law—a measure to allow veterinarians to report potential evidence of animal abuse when they witness it in private practice. An appellate court ruling, Florida v. Milewski, had highlighted this restriction. The ASPCA-backed veterinary cruelty reporting provision passed into law after being amended into HB 7125 Public Safety, and the law goes into effect October 1, 2019.
A special shout out to Flagler Humane Society Executive Director Amy Wade-Carotenuto and her staff, who traveled to Tallahassee to ask their state representative, Rep. Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast), to help address the problem! Thanks in large part to FHS and Amy’s leadership, Judiciary Chair Renner placed veterinary cruelty reporting language from HB 379 into HB 7125.
Puppy Mills and Preemption:
The retail puppy-selling pet store industry yet again hired a large team of Florida lobbyists to push state preemption of local laws that ban the sale of dogs and cats at retail stores. For a third year in a row, however, their efforts failed thanks to a huge team effort at the capitol and throughout the state among animal welfare advocates. Approximately 67 local governments in Florida have passed ordinances prohibiting the retail sale of dogs and cats. Could yours be next?
Tethering of Dogs in Disasters:
A measure to prohibit the tethering of dogs during disasters, SB 1738, received a favorable Senate hearing by the Senate Agriculture Committee. The measure did not have a House companion, however, and died in committee.
Companion Animal Public-Private Partnership Act (CAPA):
A measure to restrict the euthanasia of companion animals in animal shelters (HB 1095/SB 1202) died in committee without receiving a hearing.