By Peggy Hoyt, Chair
Florida Bar Journal, Vol. 93, No. 3 May/June 2019 Pg 64
The Animal Law Section (ALS) remains one of the newest and most exciting sections of The Florida Bar. The 2018-2019 year represents our third year in existence. We are continuing to build momentum as Bar members become more familiar with our mission and platforms. We hold the belief that every member of the Bar who loves animals of any kind should become an active member of the ALS.
The ALS is open to all — this includes lawyers and nonlawyers who may join our section as law students, paralegals, law enforcement, and others involved in animal welfare or other animal-related activities.
This year has certainly been exciting! One of our proudest moments was in November with the overwhelming approval of ballot Amendment 13. The ALS actively participated in the entire process. The ALS was approved to lobby the Constitutional Revision Commission, which placed the amendment on the ballot. When the language was challenged in court, the ALS participated as amicus curiae in the litigation that successfully kept the amendment on the ballot. The ALS provided arguments from the trial court all the way through the Florida Supreme Court’s review. When the amendment was approved for inclusion, members of the ALS worked hard at educating the public about the initiative and the inherent cruelty in greyhound dog racing. Amendment 13 effectively phases out greyhound dog racing in Florida, forever. The ban will be complete by the year 2020, but tracks are already starting to close in response to the phase-out. Florida was home to more than two-thirds of the remaining dog tracks in the United States. Members of the ALS and others continue to work with greyhound rescue organizations to find forever homes for all displaced dogs.
In addition, the ALS continues to be actively involved in the legislative process. For the 2019 legislative session, the ALS has taken the following legislative positions:
1) Support legislation that will a) eliminate a prohibition on veterinarians who report cases of animal cruelty to the authorities; b) prohibit the practice of pet leasing; c) require continuing education for technicians that conduct dog and cat euthanasia; and d) clarify that animals imported by shelters are required to have a health certificate.
2) Support legislation that would increase the penalty for crimes committed against a police, fire, or search and rescue dog. This legislation also provides protection for horses involved in police work.
3) Oppose legislation that would preempt local animal ordinances that provide protection for animals that exceeds the protection available at the state level.
4) Support legislation that would increase the damages permitted in cases involving the death and injury of companion animals.
5) Support legislation that would add threats against companion animals to the statutes related to seeking domestic violence injunctions.
6) Support legislation and regulations that would prevent the hunting of bears in Florida.
As new legislative initiatives are identified, we will have additional opportunities to add our voice to protect Florida’s animals. As a result, we may have the opportunity to support a statewide Animal Cruelty Offender Registration.
In the fall, ALS members and law students participated in a day-long program hosted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund program at Florida A&M School of Law in Orlando. In attendance were some of our outstanding law students and writing contest winners. The ALS sponsors an annual writing competition, and the 2018-2019 Seventh Annual Animal Law Writing Competition is now open. The winner will be featured in our newsletter, the Paw Review, and will receive a $1,000 honorarium. The deadline for submissions is July 18.
ALS members have also enjoyed a number of “field trips” to rescue organizations around the state including the Wild Horse Rescue Center in Mims; Big Cat Rescue in Tampa; Rooterville in Melrose; and Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in Citra. We are still looking forward to visiting Save the Chimps later this year.
The Animal Law Section and its partner, Pets Ad Litem, have provided stuffed Rikki Dog Dolls to Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare for distribution to sick children. The Rikki Dolls resemble Rikki, a golden retriever therapy dog, who was the unofficial mascot for The Animal Law Section and was featured on the cover of The Florida Bar News.
To encourage young lawyers to learn more about the field of Animal Law, the ALS offered 100 free memberships to members of the Young Lawyers Division. Many lawyers are not aware of the many opportunities within the field of animal law. Animal law includes virtually every substantive area of law, including, but not limited to, estate planning, family law, environmental law, disability law (including service animals), criminal law, entertainment law, and real property law. Animal law is everywhere and continues to grow in popularity.
The November/December issue of The Florida Bar Journal included an article by executive council member John Powell on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In December, state Sen. Aaron Bean filed a bill that would make killing a police, fire, or search and rescue dog a second-degree felony (mentioned above as one of the legislative positions we support). This bill was introduced in response to the death of Fang, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office police dog killed in the line of duty. If passed, this bill would extend protection to police horses as well. The ALS also recognized Sen. Tom Lee with our 2018 Outstanding Service Award based on his support of the greyhound racing ban and other important animal welfare matters.
The section wants to thank former Attorney General Pam Bondi for her adoption efforts while in office. She was known for bringing rescue dogs to cabinet meetings for the purpose of finding forever homes. We are pleased that CFO Jimmy Patronis is continuing this tradition with his Patronis Pup of the Month, which features an adoptable rescue dog.
Each year at the annual Bar meeting, the ALS holds a continuing education program highlighting many important areas of Florida Law and how it affects our state’s animals. This year will be no exception. Last year’s Puppy Pit was a big success with several puppies getting adopted to forever homes. We hope to repeat last year’s success with another Puppy Pit. Strides are also being taken to offer a Cat CLE and baby goat yoga.
In March, the section will offer its Third Annual Groundhog Day Program, “Working Together to Protect Florida’s Animals.” Topics include animal cruelty; trap, neuter, and return solutions for feral cat populations; homeowner’s association liability for wild animal attacks; the making of a constitutional amendment; the future of animal law; apartment-friendly living for dogs; animal hoarding; volunteer management and employment concerns; the service dog/emotional support animal dilemma, and the realities of where rescue organization pets come from. It will be a day packed with information for animal lovers of all kinds. This program is being supported by animal welfare organizations throughout the state.
Section outreach continues with activities related to law schools, law enforcement, and the judiciary. The section’s CLE programs for the judiciary have been well received, and we continue to receive requests for additional programs.
The communications committee continues to support submissions to The Florida Bar Journal, as well as our popular newsletter. The ALS is actively finalizing submissions for a Florida animal law treatise (the first of its kind) to be released before the end of the year.
The ALS is active on social media, and we can be found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. We appreciate all followers, along with your animal-friendly submissions. Stay tuned as we redesign our website for greater functionality. The section has received accolades for our unique section socks as well as our t-shirts and other apparel for both adults and children.
We appreciate all members of the ALS and their efforts to continually grow and support our efforts. None of what we do would be possible without the generous support of time and effort of our executive council, committee chairs, Board of Governors liaison, members, and our Florida Bar administrative assistant, Ricky Libbert.
If you are interested in joining our ever-growing section, we would love to have you. Most of our members are interested in the area, but do not practice animal law. We also encourage nonattorney affiliates to join.