The 2018 Florida legislative session begins on January 9, 2018, and runs through March 9th. However, it can be extended by 3/5 vote of the senate and house. Additionally, the governor or the speaker of the house and president of the senate by joint proclamation may call for a twenty-day special session, which can be further extended by 3/5 vote of each house.
(See detailed report below)
We are pleased to report that the 2018 legislative session will mark our section’s first official foray into legislation involving animals. As supporters of our move to section status may remember, one of the reasons we petitioned The Florida Bar to transition from a committee to a section was because of the increased ability to get involved in legislative proposals.
This session, our Section’s legislative committee and executive council requested to support legislation that (1) increases the sentencing points for animal cruelty and clarifies that judges may issue no-contact orders to persons convicted of animal cruelty under Section 828.12, Fla. Stat, and (2) requires animal control shelters and humane organizations to adopt policies and procedures to help return lost dogs or cats to identified owners.
The bills relating to our positions are described in more detail in the report below. “Ponce’s Law” (HB 473/SB 952) is named after a dog in Representative Leek’s district that was viciously killed by its owner. This was a high-profile case that has drawn widespread attention to animal cruelty. In requesting to support this legislation, the section referenced the link between defendants who commit crimes against animals also being predisposed to commit crimes against humans is well documented. We believe Ponce’s Law will benefit animals involved, will help with recidivism, and prevent crimes against both animals and human victims.
The Lost or Stray Dogs or Cats legislation (HB 823) requires animal control shelters and humane organizations to adopt policies and procedures to help return lost dogs or cats to identified owners. In requesting to support this legislation, the section referenced high profile cases in Florida where owned animals have been mistakenly euthanized. This legislation will require shelters to have policies and procedures in place to prevent these kinds of mistakes from happening, which will also reduce legal disputes and litigation that has come from wrongful euthanization.
We look forward to supporting this legislation as we embark on this new expansion of our section’s activities. If you have not already, please consider joining the section to receive more frequent updates on legislation. We will be providing our members updates on the bills we are supporting and any other legislation that impacts animals during the upcoming session.