The 2021 Florida regular legislative session adjourned on April 30, and executive action on bills of interest to dog owners concluded in late June. Two bills supported by AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) were enacted, another bill was favorably amended, and several problematic bills did not advance.
AKC GR thanks the Florida Association of Kennel Clubs, AKC club officers and members throughout the state, dog owners, sportsmen, and advocates who took action to protect the well-being of dogs and to preserve the rights of responsible dog owners.
Enacted bills supported by AKC GR:
Senate Bill 72, which provides certain protections to business entities from civil liability claims related to COVID-19, was enacted early in session as Chapter 2021-1 and went into effect on March 29, 2021. This legislation benefits dog-related businesses and incorporated clubs.
Senate Bill 388 authorizes emergency transport of, and allows a paramedic or EMT to provide emergency medical care to, a police canine injured in the line of duty under certain circumstances and when no individual requires transport or care at that time. SB 388 was enacted as Chapter 2021-119 and went into effect on July 1, 2021.
In other action:
AKC GR requested a friendly amendment to Senate Bill 96, a child welfare bill that, among other provisions, requires certain cross-reporting of suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect and animal cruelty. As introduced, the bill included a provision that would have changed the definition of “animal husbandry” to exclude care of non-livestock animals. SB 96 was favorably amended, and on July 7, 2021, became Chapter 2021-170 without the problematic animal husbandry definition.
Opportunity for 2022:
AKC GR supported House Bill 1405/Senate Bill 1810, which sought to create a program to provide care for retired law enforcement dogs. Both bills received favorable committee reports early in session, then died in subsequent committees. Sponsors Sen. Bobby Powell and Rep. Sam Killebrew are respectfully urged to reintroduce this legislation in 2022.
Bills that did not advance:
House Bill 45/Senate Bill 1138 sought to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs and cats. Both bills died in committee. Read more about how retail pet store bans fail to protect pets and undermine responsible pet choice.
House Bill 47/Senate Bill 216 sought to make the failure to report suspected animal cruelty grounds for disciplinary action for veterinarians, vet techs, and other “animal treatment provider employees” (which included shelter personnel), and to provide certain immunities from liability for good faith reporting. Related legislation House Bill 49/Senate Bill 218 sought to exempt from public records requirements (and from public oversight) all records containing reports of animal cruelty made by veterinarians, vet techs, and “animal treatment provider employees.” All four bills died in their respective committees.
House Bill 177/Senate Bill 650 sought to restrict tethering of dogs without providing sufficient exemptions for humane use of tethers. SB 650 passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee and later died in the Senate Community Affairs Committee. HB 177 died in the House Civil Justice & Property Rights Subcommittee. Read more about the issue of tethering and why overreaching restrictions against humane tethering can be unsafe for dogs.
House Bill 731 and similar bill Senate Bill 1122 sought to problematically define “adequate shelter” and make failure to provide adequate shelter an animal cruelty offense. Both bills died in committee. Read more about how overreaching animal cruelty definitions can turn good dog owners into criminals.
House Bill 1003/Senate Bill 1316, among other provisions, sought to provide for appointment of an advocate for the interests of an animal in certain court proceedings, at the discretion of the court. Both bills died in committee. Read more about how court-appointed animal advocates can undermine animal welfare.
On the local level:
Despite successes at the state level, problematic county and city ordinances continue to be proposed and enacted in communities across Florida. Dog owners are urged to watch local media, regularly check city and county websites for information about proposed local legislation, and share this information with AKC GR.