Leaving Fido to fend for himself outside during a hurricane could soon be a crime in Florida. Senate Bill 1738, which passed the state Senate Agricultural Committee with no opposition last month, makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to leave a dog restrained outside and unattended during a natural disaster or man-made disaster, the Weather Network reports. Offenders could face a $5,000 fine or up to a year in prison. Animal welfare officials say dozens of dogs were left tethered outside when Hurricane Irma hit the state in 2017. Many of them did not survive the storm. Some counties, including Palm Beach, where at least 49 dogs were rescued after being left outside during Hurricane Irma, already have similar laws, reports NBC.
Paula Whiteamire, who runs Amazing Grace Bully Rescue, tells ABC 4 that the bill is long overdue. "The amount of people who leave their animals out in storms open on chains during hurricanes, tornadoes, whatever—and the destruction that occurs; even if the dog doesn't die, what it has to live with afterwards," she says. "I think the people need to be held accountable for doing that kind of thing." Authorities say leaving dogs outside during natural disasters is not only cruel, it diverts valuable resources away from other rescue missions. If the bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters, passes the legislature, it will take effect July 1. (After Hurricane Florence, this dog survived for a week on a floating couch in a flooded house.)