Monday, May 9, 2011

Letter to Animal Advocates - Legislative Update

Following is a letter from the Humane Society of the United States providing an update on the animal related legislation that was pending in Florida this year.  Thanks to the HSUS and animal supporters everywhere for their efforts.  

Dear Florida Grassroots Animal Advocates,

Thanks to all of you who called (and called again), emailed, and visited with your elected officials on behalf of animals this year. Your outreach made a tremendous difference in helping advance legislation to protect animals and defeat legislation that would be detrimental to animal welfare. Below is a final report on animal-related legislation during the 2011 Legislative Session, as well as links to how each member voted. Following up with your lawmakers on their vote is extremely helpful to animals-it lets your elected officials know that you are paying attention to how they represent you!

Legislative Session 2011: A Mixed Bag for Florida's Animals:

Bestiality Bill Finally Passes Legislature, Awaits Governor's Approval: A bill to prohibit bestiality in Florida SB 344 (Rich)/HB 125 (Kiar) unanimously passed both chambers and awaits the Governor's approval.

Florida's Greyhounds Lose: The bill to remove minimum live race requirements for dog tracks (HB 1145 Young/SB 1594 Sachs) known as the "greyhound racing decoupling" bill, died in the final hours of Legislative Session. After passing 6 committees and both Chambers, the House and Senate refused to concur on the slightly different versions of the bill, and the measure died. Click here <>  to see how your Senator voted, and click here <>  to see how your Representative voted.

Racing greyhounds endure lives of confinement and suffer severe injuries. There are an estimated 8,000 racing greyhounds at any given time on Florida's tracks. Based on the industry average, these dogs will be replaced every 18 months with more dogs. Many are adopted, but some are not. We will continue fighting until we end greyhound racing in Florida, and we need your help. Please contact your state lawmakers and ask them to pass this bill next year.

"Ag-Gag" Factory Farm Cover-Up Bill Dies: SB 1246 (Norman, R-Tampa), which would make it a crime to take a picture or video on a farm without the owner's written consent, was withdrawn from its second and third committees before passing the Senate 25-10 (5 abstained). Even as amended, the bill would make criminals of anyone on a "farm" who takes a picture or produces a video of anything without the owner's written consent. 

This bill would not only allow animal abuse to go unreported on factory farms and horse pastures, as well as other properties, but it would be detrimental to the environment as well as to public health and safety. Click here <>  to see how your Senator voted and make sure to let your Senator know you oppose this measure. (Note: Senators Garcia, Hays, Montford, and Siplin supported the bill in the Agriculture committee as well.) Florida should prevent animal cruelty-not prevent the public from learning about it.

Bill To Give Ex-Fighting Dogs a Fighting Chance Passes Legislature: A bill to remove the automatic dangerous dog designation for dogs removed from fighting operations unanimously passed the Senate, and passed the House 99-17. Click here <>  to see how your Representative voted. The bill now awaits approval by the Governor.

Animal Fighting Bill Dies, But Will Return Next Year: A bill to strengthen Florida's animal fighting law by clarifying the prohibition on animal fighting paraphernalia and protecting agencies from frivolous lawsuits by animal fighters passed the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously. Unfortunately, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, the first committee of reference, didn't hear the bill before the committee stopped meeting. Sponsors have committed to support the bill again next year.

 Spay/Neuter Bill Stuck in Committee: The spay/neuter funding bill (HB 359/SB 676) didn't receive a hearing in 2011. The current Legislative majority frowns upon bills that contain fees or generate revenue. These bills would raise funding for spay/neuter surgeries at the local level by adding a civil penalty onto citations written for violations of local animal control and cruelty ordinances. We are grateful to the sponsors, Senator Nan Rich, D-Weston, and Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, for filing these bills, and hope these bills will succeed next year.

Bill to Protect Pets from Domestic Violence Dies:  A bill that would include pets in domestic violence protective orders (SB 206 Fasano) died without a House companion. The bill may be introduced next year.

Legislature Adopts Shelter Pet Resolution:

On April 6, the Florida Legislature adopted a resolution declaring April 2011 Adopt-a-Shelter-Pet Month. The resolution was sponsored by Senator Dennis Jones, R-Seminole, and Representative Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.

 Please contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel about their votes. It's important to thank them for voting to support animal welfare, and also to let them know you disagree with their votes on bills that would harm animals. Polite, respectful calls to lawmakers are the most effective way to communicate your views (second only to a face-to-face meeting).

Many of you may not know that your elected officials have offices in your home district. Please consider making an appointment over the summer or in the fall with your lawmakers to discuss these issues. Several of these bills will be back in January when the Legislature reconvenes, and if your lawmakers hear that you support or oppose the measures, it will make a difference. If you are interested in setting up a meeting and would like some assistance, please contact me. I can provide contact numbers, fact sheets, background information, and I may even be able to attend the meeting with you if you like.

You can find contact info for your state lawmakers here <> . You will need your zip + 4 <> . And if you are on Facebook, please join the Humane Society of the United States Florida Group for more updates and information on animal issues in Florida.

Thanks for all you do for animals.

Kind regards,

Jennifer Hobgood, Ph.D.
Florida State Director
The Humane Society of the United States
State Affairs, Eastern Regional Office
1624 Metropolitan Circle Suite B
Tallahassee, Florida 32308
phone  850.386.3435

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