During last year’s active hurricane season which produced destructive Hurricanes Florence and Michael, beyond the human tragedy, a tragedy with pets became apparent. In hazardous weather conditions and rising flood waters, first responders came across a frightening, common scene: dogs left behind, often tethered to a tree or post by rope, or locked in a cage outside. The legislature in Florida wants to change that: they’re advancing a bill that would prohibit a person from “restraining a dog outside and unattended during a manmade disaster or a natural disaster.”
Known as Senate Bill 1738: Animal Welfare, the new legislation, if signed into law, would make keeping dogs outside in hurricanes criminal animal cruelty. In Florida, animal cruelty is a first-degree misdemeanor; the charge is punishable by a possible fine of up to $5,000. If signed into law, the new legislation would become effective July 1, a month after the start of this year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season which starts on June 1.
In 2018’s Hurricane Michael, the ASPCA reported that they assisted nearly 600 animals that were displayed by that storm alone. The ASPCA assisted Florida SARC and local agencies in providing care for the animals left behind in the hurricane.