Legislation repealing automatic death sentence for canine victims of cruelty passes, individual evaluations to be encouraged
The 2011 Florida legislative session scored one huge victory for the dogs.
Senate Bill 722 (formerly House Bill 4075), unanimously passed in every committee and in the Senate, and yesterday cleared the House floor with a 99-17 final vote. Sponsored by a team of three bipartisan lawmakers – Representatives Luis Garcia and Jeff Brandes, and Senator Jim Norman – this legislation supports what we already know: rarely is an abused animal beyond redemption and no breed is inherently dangerous.
“In a year in which the State has gone after many of Florida’s most vulnerable I was glad to see that we came together as a legislature to stop punishing these abused animals,” said House bill sponsor Rep. Garcia. “I truly believe that you can judge the civility of a society by the way it treats its most vulnerable, including its animals.”
Best Friends Animal Society’s Ledy VanKavage, a nationally-respected expert on pit-bull terriers and reckless owner/dangerous dog legislation, testified last month in support of SB 722. Other animal advocacy groups, veterinarians, and rescue groups also voiced their support for the bill by highlighting their work with dogs seized in from animal-fighting situations.
“We have been working to remove the automatic ‘dangerous’ stigma from dogs and puppies seized from cruelty situations,” said Ledy. “After SB 722 becomes law, we will continue our work to remove this arbitrary designation in the remaining 13 states as part of our national pit bull terrier initiatives.”
SB 722 provides local authorities with the option to conduct individual behavioral evaluations of all animals seized from dogfighting situations and to determine if the dogs can be rehabilitated and adopted. The individual evaluation is not required, but an option for animal control officials.
“I am honored to be a co-sponsor of this bill which allows animal experts to evaluate the dogs and gives these victims of abuse a second chance a life,” noted Rep. Brandes.
Prior to its passage, the legislation received a warm reception at a Tallahassee capitol press conference. Bill sponsors decided to put a face on canine victims of cruelty by showcasing Dolly, a rehabilitated pit-bull terrier who was believed to have been used as a bait dog but now lives peacefully as a Canine Good Citizen canine companion and therapy dog for senior citizens.
"You can see what a wonderful animal this is," said Senate bill sponsor Senator Jim Norman during the press conference, as Dolly laid down near his feet. "This is a dog that has been typified as a vicious type of animal but, as you can see, if dogs are treated right, they're man's best friend, ladies' best friend — just wonderful creatures."
Best Friends expects Governor Rick Scott to sign the law when it reaches his desk.
Best Friends Animal Society is working throughout the country to help pit-bull terriers, who are battling everything from a media-driven bad reputation to ineffective and expensive legislation. Best Friends hopes to end discrimination against all dogs. Dogs are individuals and should be treated as individuals. Find out how you can help by visiting and becoming a fan of the pit bull terrier initiatives.
Learn more about breed bans and dog bite facts at the National Canine Research Council.
Find more resources in our Tools to Use section.
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"How to Prevent Breed Discrimination in Your Community"
By Jessi Freud, Best Friends Network volunteer
Photo courtesy of Representative Luis R. Garcia’s office