Florida - SB132
August 10, 2017
SB 132 would amend Florida’s shelter and rescue law, starting with the legislative findings and recitals. It’s important that the findings are amended to acknowledge the reality of the current situation. Florida shelters and rescues have been so successful in rehoming surplus animals that their numbers have been greatly reduced, and as a result, they looked to importation of unwanted animals from other places to remain in business. Notably the findings state: “the number of dogs and cats imported from outside the state has increased exponentially, sometimes leading to inhumane transport and sheltering conditions, reduced adoption opportunities for local dogs and cats, and needless euthanasia of local dogs and cats.” These recitals affirm the necessity of reining in the uncontrolled number of imported animals.
Rescues would be required to keep and make available the same records on animal intake and disposition as shelters. The bill also adds rescues to the requirement for shelters that animals be spayed or neutered prior to placement. Most importantly, the bill prohibits the importation of dogs and cats for sale or adoption by “public or private animal shelter, animal rescue organization, humane organization, or animal control agency operated by a humane organization or by a county, municipality, or other incorporated political subdivision.” The only exemption to this prohibition would be in the case of a natural disaster or emergency.
Dealing with violators has to be uniquely addressed as in most cases it will be entities and not individuals importing the animals. The punishment was drafted to treat shelters and rescues as the retail business they truly become in importing animals for resale. The rescue or shelter will be deemed a pet dealer and will have to meet the legal requirements of a pet dealer for 2 years. Subsequent violations will result in the same 2 repercussions but for FIVE years, and in addition, the violating entity will lose its state not for profit status. Individuals violating the importation prohibition on behalf of covered organizations will be charged with felonies of varying degrees. This reduces the opportunity for sham transactions to avoid the statutory requirements.
In addition to state law violations, this bill will mandate the Commissioner of Agriculture to report the entity or individual to the USDA for operating as a dealer without a license if an animal was transferred to another party for resale for compensation, or if an animal was transported by an entity or individual who is not the owner of the animal. Rescues and shelters that choose to disregard the ban and import animals will face state law AND also possible violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.