2016 Florida Legislative Session

The best way to show legislators that animal protection is an important issue is for animal advocates to communicate with their elected officials. Legislators do care what constituents (voters) think about issues. After all, elected officials generally want to be re-elected, and that means adequately addressing matters important to their constituents.

Please contact your state senator and state representative, let them know you are a constituent and ask them to support the bills described here (you may want to address only one bill or issue in each letter or phone call).

Are you confused by the legislative process? Click to learn “How an Idea Becomes a Law.”

The 2016 Legislative Session ended on March 11. The 2017 Legislative Session will convene on March 7, 2017.

Greyhound Racing Injuries (SB 412 and HB 1199)
Senate Bill 412, introduced by Senator Eleanor Sobel, and House Bill 1199, introduced by Representative Jared Moskowitz and Representative H. Marlene O’Toole, would require Florida’s Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering to maintain records of greyhounds injured while racing. Most states that have dog tracks require that racing injuries be publicly reported. Only Florida and Alabama do not. SB 412/HB 1199 would increase transparency about the greyhound racing industry. In addition, the legislation would save greyhound lives. In states where injury reporting laws have been approved the number of greyhounds euthanized has declined.

ARFF strongly supports this legislation that would provide Floridians with important information about a state-regulated industry.

Status: Good news! Although SB 412/HB 1199 failed to pass, a provision was added to the state budget that will require the Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to make new rules requiring that greyhound injuries be reported! The budget was approved by the Governor on March 17.

Greyhound decoupling
ARFF is hopeful that 2016 will be the year that legislation will pass to remove the requirement that dog tracks conduct live racing in order to also offer slots or poker. If passed, dog tracks in Florida would almost certainly choose to reduce or end live racing to focus on more profitable forms of gambling. There is wide support for “decoupling” among operators of dog tracks and among Floridians concerned about the welfare of racing greyhounds.

Decoupling will likely be considered as part of a larger gambling bill, not as a separate measure. Please contact your state legislators and urge them to support decoupling greyhound racing from other forms of gambling.

Status: Despite wide support, greyhound decoupling did not pass this session.

Persons or Domestic Animals Unattended in Motor Vehicles (SB 308 and HB 131)
Senate Bill 308, introduced by Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto, and House Bill 131, introduced by Representative Jared Moskowitz and Representative Dana Young, would provide immunity from civil liability for property damage that may occur when an individual (under certain circumstances) attempts to rescue a vulnerable person or domestic animal from a motor vehicle.

Status: SB 308/HB 131 passed the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives with unanimous votes. The bill was approved by the Governor on March 8.

Animals Confined in Unattended Motor Vehicles (SB 200 and HB 329)
Senate Bill 200, introduced by Senator Dorothy Hukill, and House Bill 329, introduced by Representative Robert Cortes, would make it a first degree misdemeanor for any person to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly confine an animal in an unattended motor vehicle under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of the animal (such as heat, lack of adequate ventilation, lack of food or water). In addition, the legislation would (under certain circumstances) provide immunity from civil and criminal liability for actions taken to remove an endangered animal from a vehicle.

Status: SB 200 was approved by the Committee on Criminal Justice with a unanimous vote, but did not progress further before the end of the session. HB 329 was reported favorably out of committees, but did not make it to the floor of the House for a vote before the end of the legislative session.

Severe Injuries Caused by Dogs (SB 334 and HB 91)
Senate Bill 334, introduced by Senator Bill Montford, and House Bill 91, introduced by Representative Greg Steube, specifies circumstances under which a dog that has caused severe injury to a human may be returned to his/her owner rather than killed. The bill authorizes a hearing officer to take into account the facts surrounding the case in determining whether the dog could be returned to his/her owner.

Status: SB 334/HB 91 passed the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives with unanimous votes. The bill was approved by the Governor on March 8.

Florida Black Bears (SB 1096 and HB 1055)
Senate Bill 1096, introduced by Senator Darren Soto, Senator Joseph Abruzzo, Senator Eleanor Sobel, Senator Jeff Clemens and Senator Dwight Bullard, and House Bill 1055, introduced by Representative Mark Pafford, would create the “Florida Black Bear Habitat Restoration Act.” The Act would require state agencies to work together to restore and protect bear habitat and food sources. The Act would also create a $50-million state fund to help cities and counties purchase and distribute bear-resistant garbage containers to their residents.

ARFF supports legislation that would help reduce human-bear conflicts through non-lethal means.

Status: SB 1096/HB 1055 did not advance out of committees.

Bear-resistant garbage containers (SB 1674)
Senate Bill 1674, introduced by Senator Maria Lorts Sachs, would require the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to establish standards for the designation of specific areas of the state as high human-bear conflict areas, and would prohibit the depositing of bear-attracting garbage into a non-bear resistant garbage container in those areas (violators would be subject to a fine).

Status: SB 1674 did not advance out of committees.

Manatees (SB 1506 and HB 1273)
Senate Bill 1506, introduced by Senator Jeff Brandes, and House Bill 1273, introduced by Representative Larry Ahern, would require that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission conduct a study to evaluate the effectiveness of boating speed zones in protecting manatees. The scientific study will add important facts to the debate over the speed zones.

Status: SB 1506 did not advance out of committees. HB 1273 was approved by the Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee, but did not progress further before the end of the session.

Cruelty to Animals (SB 920)
Senate Bill 920, introduced by Senator Maria Lorts Sachs, would establish that property used or attempted to be used in the commission of felony cruelty to animals is subject to forfeiture.

Status: SB 920 did not advance out of committees.

Veterinary malpractice (SB 680)
Senate Bill 680, introduced by Senator Jeremy Ringwhich, would allow people to seek emotional damages in veterinary malpractice lawsuits (when a companion animal dies as a result of the veterinarian’s negligence).

Currently, under Florida law animals are viewed as personal property. It is difficult to recover damages beyond the market value of the animal. Of course, dogs, cats and other companion animals are much more than an item of property!

Status: SB 680 did not advance out of committees.

Public records exemption (SB 1364 and HB 1153)
Senate Bill 1364, introduced by Senator Alan Hays, and House Bill 1153, introduced by Representative Tom Goodson, would create a public records exemption for personal information held by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission of individuals who purchase hunting or fishing licenses and permits.

ARFF believes that this bill was filed to shield from public scrutiny people who hunt bears or participate in other controversial hunts. Floridians right to access government records should not be denied or abridged for such trivial reasons. Please ask your state senator and state representative to OPPOSE this legislation.

Status: Good news! SB 1364 failed after receiving an unfavorable vote by a Senate committee.


You Can Help

Have you ever spoken to your state senator or state representative? Whether you meet in person or speak on the phone, you could urge your state legislators to support a specific proposal, or simply let them know how important the issue of animal protection is to you.

Click here to find your elected officials.

To win victories for animals, ARFF will need your help during the legislative session. Contact ARFF to be added to our email list to receive legislative alerts and updates.

Animal Rights Foundation of Florida
1431 N Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

Promoting respect and compassion for animals in Florida has been the mission of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida since 1989.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.