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Florida Animal Cruelty Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Photo: HSUS staff examines dog found in animal fighting bust. Courtesy: HSUS
Photo: HSUS staff examines dog found in animal fighting bust. Courtesy: HSUS
April 29, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - People convicted of animal abuse in Florida will face more charges and likely tougher penalties if a new Animal Cruelty Bill is signed into law. Late Friday the state Senate voted unanimously to strengthen the current animal cruelty law, including its animal fighting provisions. The House had already passed the bill unanimously.

According to Kate MacFall, Florida state director for the Humane Society of the United States, strengthening laws against animal cruelty, particularly involving animal fighting, can help crack down on other criminal activity.

"It's a big problem," she declared. "It's incredibly important for the animals; they're just treated horribly and the suffering that goes on. But it's often embedded with other crimes."

Those include narcotics, violence, and gang activity.

The measure (HB 851) would allow law enforcement to charge someone with one count for every animal abused. It also reinstates a ban on the dyeing of fowl or rabbits, as in the practice of artificially coloring chicks and bunnies at Easter.

MacFall called the bill's passage a major victory for animal welfare in Florida, but hopes this is just the beginning. The Humane Society and law enforcement would also like to see a law allowing arrests for possession of animal-fighting paraphernalia.

"It's very difficult and dangerous for law enforcement to catch them in the act of fighting animals," she cautioned. "In fact, in south Florida, law enforcement, they don't even dream of going and doing a bust without the SWAT team."

Regarding the animal-dyeing, it was just last April that Governor Rick Scott signed legislating lifting a dyeing ban. That came at the request of dog owners who wanted the ability to dye their show dogs. The new law, if signed, won't apply to them.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL