2018 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.

March 9 is the last day of the 2018 Legislative Session.

Ponce’s law (SB 952 and HB 473)

Senate Bill 952, introduced by Senators Greg Steube and Travis Hutson, and House Bill 473, introduced by Representatives Tom Leek and Jason Brodeur, would allow judges to prohibit people convicted of animal cruelty from owning, possessing, or having contact with animals (for a period of time determined by the court). The bill would also increase the offense severity ranking for aggravated animal cruelty, making prison sentences more likely for people convicted of felony animal cruelty. Ponce’s law is named after a puppy who was beaten to death by his owner in Volusia County in 2017.

Status: The text of Ponce’s law was added to SB 1576 (see below). The bill passed the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives with unanimous votes, and was approved by the Governor on March 23!

Abandoned animals (SB 1550 and HB 1147)
Senate Bill 1550, introduced by Senator Annette Taddeo, and House Bill 1147, introduced by Representatives Emily Slosberg and Joe Gruters, would specify that someone who abandons an animal has no expectation of privacy in the animal’s body or remains. The bill was inspired by a Florida case in which a man who was charged with animal cruelty attempted to suppress evidence that proved the abuse by invoking his Fourth Amendment rights.

ARFF supports strengthening laws against animal cruelty, neglect and abuse.

Status: SB 1550/HB 1147 did not advance out of committees.

Greyhound racing (SB 674 and HB 463)
Senate Bill 674, introduced by Senator Dana Young, and House Bill 463, introduced by Representatives Carlos Guillermo Smith and Randy Fine, would explicitly ban the use of anabolic steroids in racing greyhounds.

Anabolic steroids, often given to greyhounds to enhance performance, can cause long-term harm to the animals’ health.

Status: SB 674 passed the Florida Senate, but did not make it to the floor of the Florida House of Representatives for a vote before the end of the session.

Lost or stray dogs or cats (SB 1576 and HB 823)
Senate Bill 1576, introduced by Senator Greg Steube, and House Bill 823, introduced by Representatives Janet Cruz and Joe Gruters, would require animal shelters and humane organizations to adopt policies and procedures to help return lost dogs or cats to their owners, including screening for microchips or other identification upon intake, public notice of lost or stray dogs and cats received, and a temporary extension of hold periods after a disaster declaration.

It is important that animal shelters make every effort to quickly return lost animals to their owners.

Status: SB 1576 was amended to include the text of “Ponce’s Law” (see above). The bill passed the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives with unanimous votes, and was approved by the Governor on March 23!

Florida Orca Protection Act (HB 1305)
House Bill 1305, introduced by Representative Jared Evan Moskowitz, would make it illegal to hold additional orcas in captivity (orcas already held captive in Florida will be grandfathered in under the bill). It would also prohibit breeding captive orcas, and would phase out the use of orcas in theatrical shows (as of January 2020, captive orcas could be used for education purposes only).

The bill merely codifies into law policies that SeaWorld has already announced, but it is important to do so as corporate policy can always change. Similar legislation passed in California in 2016.

ARFF supports this bill that would ensure that this generation of captive orcas is the last at SeaWorld.

Status: HB 1305 did not advance out of committees.

Florida black bears (SB 156 and HB 559)
Senate Bill 156, introduced by Senator Linda Stewart, and House Bill 559, introduced by Representatives Robert Olszewski and Katie Edwards-Walpole, would prohibit the killing of bears mothering cubs that weigh less than 100 pounds (if Florida held a bear hunt in the future). The legislation would also increase penalties for the unlawful harvesting of saw palmetto berries, an important food source for Florida’s black bears.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will likely revisit the issue of bear hunting in 2019.

Status: SB 156/HB 559 did not advance out of committees.

Animal hoarding (SB 86)
Senate Bill 86, introduced by Senator Dorothy Hukill, would create a definition of “animal hoarding” and establish the crime of animal hoarding. In addition, a person convicted of animal hoarding would be required to undergo mental health counseling. Animal hoarding is a widespread problem in Florida, affecting hundreds of animals each year. ARFF has reviewed over 150 reports of animal hoarding in the news media over the past 10 years; during that time there were cases of animal hoarding in 43 of Florida’s 67 counties. A summary of the cases can be found here.

Animal hoarding is a complex problem. Criminal charges and psychological counseling may only be part of the solution, but ARFF supports this legislation that would help to reduce reoffending by hoarders.

Status: SB 86 did not advance out of committees.

Evacuation of companion animals during an emergency (SB 1376 and HB 907)
Senate Bill 1376, introduced by Senator Victor Torres, Jr., and House Bill 907, introduced by Representatives Robert Olszewski and Sam Killebrew, would make it illegal for pet owners to leave a dog or other companion animal outdoors and unattended when an evacuation of the area has been ordered due to weather or other emergency conditions.

Animals left outdoors during a hurricane, flood or other disaster could easily be injured, lost or killed. The most important thing you can do to protect your companion animals is to take them with you if you evacuate.

Status: SB 1376/HB 907 did not advance out of committees.

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. Click here to be added to ARFF’s 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.