Florida lawmakers hoping to discourage people from keeping dogs tied up or abandoned during natural or manmade disasters cleared a bill on Monday that would jail or fine those who abandon man's best friend.
The bill, which was filed on March 1, would make it a criminal act to leave pets chained up during such events — specifically by making it a first-degree misdemeanor.
“We’ve seen these three hurricanes and seen numerous dogs left tethered to different things,” Republican Sen. Joe Gruters, who sponsored the bill, said during a committee hearing on Monday, according to the News Service of Florida. “We want to give dogs a fighting chance.”
A measure was approved 5-0 by the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday.
Local counties reportedly already have laws in place to stop dog owners from leaving their pets restrained during storms, but that doesn't seem to have stopped some Florida locals.
When Hurricane Irma hit Florida in 2017, roughly 40 dogs who were left tied up during the storm — which at one point was classified as a Category 5 — were rescued by Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control.
"Absolutely unacceptable. People need to be responsible pet owners in this community," Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County, said at the time. "There is no excuse for leaving your pet behind to die. We are going to hold accountable those who we can prove left their dogs behind in the storm."
Under the bill, those who leave their pets unattended or restrained during a disaster would face up to a year in jail or a fine up to $5,000.