Gaining bilateral support, a proposed law strengthening protection against cruelty for dogs and cats has been introduced and is building sponsorship in the Florida House and Senate. HB 621 Animal Cruelty, or Allie’s Law, was introduced on Nov. 12, by Democrat Rep. Dan Daley of Coral Springs and co-introduced by Republican Rep. Scott Plakon of Longwood. Only weeks later, on Nov. 25, SB 1044 was introduced by Sen. Jason Pizzo and has gained nearly a dozen bilateral co-sponsors so far this year.
“The cycle of abuse must end. Animal abuse is an indicator that a home is not safe and is usually correlated with family dysfunction, including domestic, child, and elder abuse,” said Daley. “I am honored to work on this bipartisan legislation this year in Tallahassee and intend on working to stop the unfair treatment of innocent animals and to break the cycle of abuse.”
Allie’s Law is named after 4-year-old Boston Terrier Allie Katherine, adopted by Dave Heine, a small business owner in Orlando and vice president of Boston Terrier Rescue of Florida and his wife Tatia. Allie was used for breeding in an backyard breeding situation. Allie had to fight 6 other dogs for her food, while she was pregnant with 5 puppies. Abandoned due to the medical costs from her abuse, Allie was rescued — but the cycle of abuse continued for the other dogs. Lacking any report of the abuse, the owners demanded Allie’s newborn puppies from the veterinarian, sentencing them to a life of abuse.
Determined to stop the cycle, Heine researched laws and met with rescue agencies, health care professionals, pet owners and advocates. His work led him to collaborate with Nanette Parratto-Wagner, D.V.M., Ph.D., a veterinarian and past chair of the Board of Veterinary Medicine to co-author Allie’s Law.
Florida Statutes give immunity to veterinarians who report abuse. However, they currently do not include a requirement to report suspected abuse, said Heine, leaving a gap in the law’s ability to protect animals. Allie’s Law would close this gap in the same way medical professionals are required to report child abuse.
“Not only will this bill ensure that pets are spared from future abuse, it will also ensure that abusers will face the consequences for their actions and hopefully never harm another animal again,” Heine said.
The proposed law provides guidelines regarding when a veterinarian or member of a veterinary medical facility is required to report signs of suspected animal cruelty to law enforcement or animal control. Sixteen other states currently have a similar law in place. Allie’s Law states:
(1) A veterinarian licensed to practice in the state who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a dog or cat showing visible signs of cruelty, as prohibited under s.828.12(1), has been or is being subjected to animal cruelty by its owner or under its owner’s care, shall report such knowledge or suspicion within 48 hours after obtaining such knowledge or suspicion to a local law enforcement or animal control agency for investigation.
(2) A veterinary technician or an employee or volunteer of an animal treatment provider, facility, or shelter, who during the normal course of care of a dog or cat, knows, or has reason to suspect, that a dog or cat, showing visible signs of cruelty, as prohibited under s. 828.12(1), has been or is being subjected to animal cruelty by its owner or under its owner’s care, shall report within 24 hours to a veterinarian such knowledge or suspicion, who shall, if the cooperation of the owner or caretaker is obtained, attempt to examine the dog or cat within 24 hours after notification of suspected cruelty. If the owner or caretaker refuses to permit a veterinarian to examine a dog or cat that has been reported to a veterinarian under this subsection as possibly subjected to animal cruelty, or the veterinarian is otherwise unable to examine the animal, then the veterinarian shall report the suspected cruelty to a local law enforcement or animal control agency for investigation.
(3) A veterinarian, veterinary technician, or an employee or volunteer of a treatment provider facility, or shelter practicing in the state shall be held harmless from either criminal or civil liability for any decisions made to report suspected cruelty. Any such animal treatment provider, facility, or shelter is immune from all civil liability for any decisions made to report suspected cruelty and its cooperation with any related investigation of cruelty to animals.
If Allie’s Law passes in 2020, it would, for the first time in Florida history, make reporting animal abuse a requirement of the profession just as pediatricians, veterinarians and other healthcare practitioners are required to report child abuse.