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stateseal_color.jpgThe 2008 Regular Session of the Florida Legislature ended on Friday with some good news for animals and some bad news.

The only animal-related bill that ARFF supported that passed was the “Gertrude Maxwell Save a Pet Act.” The Act creates an organization within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that will raise funds to support spaying and neutering throughout Florida. The bill passed both the Florida House and Senate with unanimous votes. It’s impact is still to be seen.

Our biggest disappointment this session was the failure of House Bill 1227 and Senate Bill 744 which would have prohibited sexual contact with animals. In 2007, there were several disturbing cases of sexual abuse of animals in Florida. Shockingly, bestiality is not expressly outlawed in Florida. Although the bill was one of the most talked-about in this year’s session, it did not make much progress before the session ended. We would like to thank Rep. Bill Heller and Sen. Nan Rich for introducing this important legislation. We hope that it will be reintroduced next year.

There were two other important bills that we strongly supported:

Senate Bill 444, introduced by Sen. Larcenia Bullard, would have strengthened Florida’s “Pet Lemon Law” by transferring power to regulate the sale of dogs and cats to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and strengthen penalties for violations. The bill passed the Agriculture and Judiciary committes with unanimous votes, but did not make it out of its final committee before the end of the session.

Senate Bill 590 would have granted authority to Florida’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering to “inspect any area at a pari-mutuel facility where racing animals are housed or maintained.” The bill would have helped to ensure the humane treatment of animals at dog and horse tracks. S 590 was passed by the Florida Senate with a vote of 30 to 8, but unfortunately did not make it to the floor of the House for a vote before the session ended.

But we were thrilled at the death of several bills that would have been bad news for animals in Florida.

House Bill 101 would have reversed Florida’s prohibition on breed-specific regulations, allowing municipalities to ban breeds of dogs. We believe that there are more appropriate and effective methods of curbing dangerous dog behavior. Thankfully, HB 101 did not advance out of committee.

Two bills that were strongly supported by the dog racing industry– Senate Bills 1380 and 970– passed the Florida Senate but were not considered in the Florida House. The bills would have allowed slot machines at dog tracks across the state, and would have provided a tax break to those tracks with existing slots, thus subsidizing the cruel dog racing industry for years to come.

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