In April of 2017, a nine-month-old Labrador puppy named “Ponce” was allegedly beaten to death in his home. Later in the year, the aftermath of Hurricane Irma displaced hundreds of dogs and cats from their families as people and animals alike sought refuge across county lines. In response, during the 2018 legislative session, state lawmakers passed SB 1576 Animal Welfare by Sen. Steube (R-Sarasota) and Rep. Leek (R-Daytona Beach).
SB 1576 contains protections for animals from cruelty and safeguards for owned lost pets. SB 1576 increases the sentencing guidelines level for violations of felony aggravated animal cruelty and clarifies a court’s ability to issue orders of no animal contact for those convicted of misdemeanor or felony animal cruelty.
In addition, SB 1576 created Florida State Statute 823.151 to help animal shelters of all sizes return lost pets to their owners by requiring shelters, animal control agencies, and humane organizations that accept lost or stray dogs and cats to develop reasonable policies and procedures to quickly and reliably return lost pets to their families.
While many animal shelters in Florida currently have reasonable lost pet policies in place, adopting statewide minimum standards is a crucial next step towards elevating and standardizing commonsense practices that can reunite lost pets with their owners, and the Florida Association of Animal Welfare Organization applauds the Florida Legislature for passing this humane legislation.
SB 1576 creates F.S.S. 823.151, which requires public or private shelters, animal control agencies, and humane organizations such as rescue groups, who take in lost or stray dogs or cats, to develop written policies and procedures to ensure that owned pets are quickly and reliably returned to owners. Such policies and procedures must include the following criteria specified in the new law:
- screening for identification, such as tags and microchips, upon intake;
- a process for matching pets coming into the shelter with reports of lost pets made to the shelter by owners;
- public notice of stray dogs and cats received by the shelter, provided at the shelter or on the Internet;
- reasonable efforts to notify identified pet owners within 48 hours;
- public notice of shelter hours, location, and return-to-owner process;
- access for owners to claim lost pets outside of normal business hours at least 1 weekend day per week and after 5:00 p.m. 1 weekday per week (no increase in total operating hours required);
- direct return-to-owner protocol for returning lost dogs or cats to owners when owners have been identified by an officer in the field;
- procedural safeguards to minimize the euthanasia of owned dogs and cats that shall include: record verification to ensure that each animal to be euthanized is the correct animal designated for the procedure and proper scanning for an implanted microchip using a universal scanner immediately prior to the procedure; and
- temporary extension of local stray hold periods when an emergency is declared, if deemed appropriate by local government.
The cruelty and lost pets provisions in SB 1576 go into effect October 1, 2018.
VIEW A TRAINING SLIDESHOW:
SB1576 Ponce's Law Training JH.pdf
SB 1576 Animal Welfare Enrolled.pdf