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Florida bill would ban owners from abandoning pets outside in hurricanes


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Pets are left behind when hurricanes hit, some are even chained outside and vulnerable to the worst of the storm. But legislation is moving in the State Capitol that would make it a criminal offense to leave a dog tied up during a natural disaster.

The ASPCA alone reported rescuing nearly 600 animals that had been left behind during Hurricane Michael.

In a case depicted in a video released by the organization, a dog had been left outside chained to a fence, unable to defend itself.

Similar situations are not uncommon during hurricanes.

“They have no chance to survive,” said State Senator Joe Gruters (R) Sarasota.

Gruters is sponsoring new legislation would make abandoning a dog chained up outside during a natural disaster a crime, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine.

“It’s when you hike out of town and leave the dog tethered where they have no chance and this bill is about giving all dogs a fighting chance,” said Gruters.

Animal rights groups like the Humane Society hope if passed, the bill would make people think twice before leaving their dogs out in the elements.

“Every family should have a disaster plan and in that plan includes your pets. It’s not okay to evacuate and leave your animal outside chained. If it’s not safe for you it’s not safe for your pet,” said Kate MacFall with the Humane Society.

Some lawmakers have raised concerns about the bill, calling it overly broad, because it isn’t only limited to Hurricanes.

It also includes tropical storm and tornado warnings.

“Half the time I don’t know when a tornado warning has been issued or not issued and how would I possibly be able to get home and unchain the dog?” Said State Senator Jeff Brandes.

Gruters has said he’ll work on refining the legislation moving forward, but what changes might be in store are unknown right now.

So far the bill has cleared one Senate committee, but a companion not been filed in the House.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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