TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - People leaving pets behind during a hurricane or serious natural disaster has become a known issue across the country and more specifically in the state of Florida.
Republican Sen. Joe Gruters, of Sarasota, is sponsoring Senate Bill 1738, which would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to leave a restrained dog outside and unattended during a manmade disaster or natural disaster.
If passed, anyone who violated that rule would be committing animal cruelty.
“We want to give dogs a fighting chance," Gruters said during a committee hearing, according to our sister-station First Coast News.
If it became law, offenders could face up to one year in prison and/or up to a $5,000 fine.
According to a Florida Senate bill analysis, 49 dogs and two cats were rescued by animal control officers during Hurricane Irma. Palm Beach County animal control reported pets were left chained to trees and parked cars -- left behind to "ride out the storm."
The analysis says Collier, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Sarasota, and St. Lucie Counties all have similar bans on leaving pets tethered in extreme weather conditions. But, this legislation would make such prohibitions statewide.
“It’s almost like saying 'do you have to legislate common sense?'" said Rick Yocum, the executive director of the Humane Society of Manatee County. However, Yocum said if that means saving an animal's life, then he supports Senator Gruters' bill.
Yocum says in the 48 hours leading up to Irma, Mantatee County humane workers receive received as many as 100 calls from people wanting to drop off their pets.
Yocum recommends you have an evacuation kit ready for your pet, in case of an emergency. It should include medical records with up-to-date vaccines, medicine, food, water, bedding, a crate and their leash.Click here to read the proposed legislation.